I was lucky enough to visit Settlement Farm in Underhill today. After months of not-visiting other farms and sheep, I felt really ready to have a socially-distanced meetup with another shepherd. I ostensibly went to buy some wool for Bobolink Yarns, but I stayed for some special shepherd-time.
David Martin raises Montadale cross sheep on a vast and lush acreage. The rich grass shows that David has been managing his grass thoughtfully over the decades. The sheep live in a lightly modified 1930’s era dairy barn which has been sectioned off into areas for market lambs, lambs who need extra attention, ram pens and more. David explained how his jugging system lets him move sheep from a pregnant-ewes pen to a lambed-ewes pen through the area where the bonding pens allow moms and new lambs some private space.
Covid changed the sheep world significantly this year. Wool Pools, which are bulk wool sales, are offering rock-bottom pricing that won’t cover the cost of shearing. The closure of one of the nation’s largest lamb slaughter plant means that millions of lambs may go unsold this year for lack of slaughter capacity. That’s a really serious issue for the sustainability of domestic sheepraising.
While I can’t solve the massive national issues on my own, Dave and I were realizing that when I buy his wool, I give him some money that will go back into the local economy in the form of sheep feed and tractor repairs. When I bring the wool to a local mill, I help sustain skilled local labor. Then, the profit margin I add to the finished skeins helps sustain me. I spend my money on local food and services. Finally, when the wool goes to a New England yarn shop, the shop owner makes a little money too. Grand total: Me buying wool from Dave contributes to the local economy FOUR SEPARATE TIMES in its journey to your needles. Not every yarn can say that!
Here are some images from my trip – wool images pending!