The CSA Movement Goes Fiber: Buying a Share of the Shearing

kindred  spirit farm csa

Materials from Kindred Spirit Farm, Spring Valley, MN

So in my last few posts, I’ve been talking about my longing to connect with the animal behind the yarn. I’ve been researching alpaca shows, shearing festivals and farm tours as ways to do this. I’ve found lots of wonderful events along the way, but the events come and go, and my longing for alpaca continues. Well, yesterday, I came across something that may just provide city and suburban dwellers like myself a more permanent fix–participation in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) fiber farm.

Many of you are probably familiar with the CSA movement in food. Typically, a farmer offers “shares” in his harvest in the late winter or early spring. The money raised through the sale of shares helps the farmer plant, cultivate and harvest his crop. Once the crops are harvested, the shareholder is given a share of the produce. For the consumer, it is a way to eat fresh and local, and to support area farmers. There are over 600 CSAs in the US .

Recently, the CSA movement has begun to take hold with fiber farmers. It works on the same principle. Shares are offered prior to spring or fall shearing. After the shearing or “clip”, share holders receive a portion of the fiber- either in its raw form, or as processed batts, roving, or yarn.  Additional perks often involve an invitation to shearing day, family farm visits, and the opportunity to help out on the farm.

Although the specifics vary from farm to farm, a share generally costs between $100 and $200 and buys you a percentage of the clip. At Juniper Moon Farm in Palmyra, Virginia, a share costs $175. The number of shareholders is limited so that each one gets a “bountiful” supply. After the shearing, the fleece is sent to a mill and made into yarn, then divided among the shareholders. Spinners can opt to receive a “spinner’s share” in roving rather than yarn.

At some farms, shareholders can identify the specific animal and type of product they want. At Creekside Acres Farm, in Pleasant Valley, NY, investors can buy  “sponsored” shares for $50 more than the standard share, and choose a specific animal for their fleece.

Mike has made a terrific Yarn and Fiber CSA Map for us, with information about each farm and a link to their websites. There are 41 yarn and fiber CSAs across the country. See if there’s one near you!

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