2020 - Volume #44, Issue #1, Page #08[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
Woolen Mill Partners With Smaller ProducersThe Mountain Meadow Wool mill can turn your flock’s wool into everything from spun yarn to hoodies complete with your brand. Wyoming’s only woolen mill buys wool for its own products and custom processes wool for products the wool’s producers can sell.
“My mother and her business partner started a yarn shop here in Buffalo 17 years ago,” says Ben Hostetler. “They wanted to offer locally sourced yarn and got a bale of wool from a local producer. They realized they could do it here, and it has grown ever since.”
One thing that makes Mountain Meadow different is that they offer premium yarn and other products identified by the ranch the wool came from. Another is that they use all natural processing, just detergent, with no chlorine or other additives.
Perhaps the biggest difference is their partnership with producers who agree to be paid for their wool as it is processed. The producers receive a baseline price that is above the market price when the wool is delivered. If the market price goes up, Mountain Meadow tries to match it.
“It’s a true partnership with benefits for them and us,” says Hostetler. “We warehouse the wool at no cost to them, and in turn, they get a premium price.”
The program has improved for producers as the mill’s business has grown. Hostetler says that the first year they took the wool on consignment, it took 4 years to use it all. “Now we use it all in a year,” he says. “The producer’s willingness to wait for the money during out initial growth has really helped.”
The producer program currently consists of 7 ranches in Wyoming, one in Colorado, and one in Montana. In addition, the mill buys wool from as many as 30 other ranches for specialty releases by breed, such as Alpaca, Churro or Mountain Merino. All told, Mountain Meadow uses about 40,000 lbs. of wool each year.
“About 70 percent of the wool we process is sold by us,” says Hostetler. “The rest comes from small flocks around the country. They send it in for custom processing.”
The latter can have their wool returned at any stage, from fiber to yarn to finished product if desired, with the farm’s brand or name woven in.
“We have a lot of ranchers who want something special made with their wool,” says Hostetler. “They own the wool all the way through the process.”
Others want something made from their wool, but they don’t know what. “I spend a lot of time up front investigating what they want to make and what the end market is for the product,” says Hostetler. “We don’t want it to sit on the shelf.”
Once decisions are made, it is generally 2 months from the time the fiber arrives until it reaches the yarn stage. To reach a finished product stage takes about 3 months.
“If it meets specifications, fiber can be made into most of the products we sell online, from blankets and throws to hoodies and sweaters,” says Hostetler. “We don’t have a minimum amount if making yarn, but our mill is best suited to orders of 50 lbs. of wool or more. If more than 10,000 lbs., it will be more economical to go to a larger mill, but it may be harder to assure traceability back to your flock.”
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Mountain Meadow Wool Mill, 22 Plains Dr., Buffalo, Wyo. 82834 (ph 307 684-5775: firstname.lastname@example.org; https://mountainmeadowwool.com).
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