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“Fibershed” Brings Producers Together With Consumers
If you produce or process wool or other natural fibers, you might want to consider setting up an organization like Fibershed, a California non-profit, that’s putting more money into the pockets of fiber producers and processors.
  “We are working to improve the economic conditions for producers,” says Rebecca Burgess, Fibershed.
  Producers include farmers and ranchers, designers, weavers, knitters, mill owners, dyers, clothing makers and more. The 130+ members of Fibershed stretch across 19 counties in northern and central California. Their goal is to build relationships among members and with the end consumer. They do so through special events, workshops, education, research and promotion.
  A comprehensive website shares what Fibershed is doing, but more importantly, is filled with stories about members and what they are doing. A visitor to the site can select a fiber or other area of interest and connect to people involved.
  The organization grew out of an effort by Burgess to wear clothes for a year whose fibers, dyes and labor was sourced within 150 miles of her. She discovered lots of producers and material and specialty items being made, but not a lot of everyday clothing. She began bringing people with knitting machines and looms together with natural fiber producers.
  “We wanted to connect people, but there were a lot of gaps to fill. A lot of cottage industry folk wanted to work with farmers and ranchers, and I brought them together,” says Burgess.
  One of the people Burgess first contacted was Robin Lynde. A Jacob’s sheep breeder, Lynde also does spinning, knitting and weaving. She has an on-farm shop and puts on spinning, weaving and dyeing classes at the farm and off the farm. She understood the need to connect and appreciated Burgess wanting to help her.
  “A lot of people raise sheep, but may not know what to do with the wool,” says Lynde, who is a board member of Fibershed. “Rebecca recognized that we make great products, and we need to share that with others. Her ability to connect people is vital.”
  Thanks to Fibershed, outdoor product company The North Face is making a product from local fiber. On a smaller scale, Burgess brings clothing designers together with wool producers like Lynde, dye makers and other fiber workers. She and her staff help put on workshops and events to build awareness and increase connections between workers and consumers.
  “As small producers we can’t compete with Walmart,” says Lynde. “We need to help people understand that they may have to pay a little more, but look at what they’ll get in terms of personal attention and quality products.”
  The one thing the non-profit can’t do is sell product. However, members of Fibershed have recently formed a co-op with an online presence.
  “We will have a website where consumers can go and order yarn from one member, a hat from another, and a rug from someone else,” says Lynde. “They’ll be able to buy everything Fibershed has been promoting. The website will help reach new consumers.”
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Fibershed, P.O. Box 221, San Geronimo, Calif. 94963 (office@fibershed.com; www.fibershed.com; www.fibershedmarketplace.com).

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2018 - Volume #42, Issue #4