Why limit yourself to a farmers market?
Knitting is a comforting task that’s pleasantly grounded in practicality and satisfaction. Like woodworking or cooking, knitting provides the chance to magically create something from nothing using raw materials, a dash of skill, and some time. It’s no surprise that knitting has seen a huge resurgence in interest recently, as we attempt to bring nature and creativity into our tech-saturated modern lives.
And if your farm produces fiber—a natural result of raising sheep, llamas, alpacas, or even some goats, with some producers raising and ginning their own cotton—this is great news, as it means you have a growing market at your disposal.
We’re all familiar with CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture), and how, for a reasonable subscription price, members or shareholders receive a stake in the year’s crop—typically produce like you would find at a farmer’s market.
But what about starting a fiber CSA and supplying fiber directly from your farm to CSA customers, with each shareholder receiving an annual portion of the fiber harvest?
Here are a few ideas you could try to get started:
1. Provide a variety of options
Some knitters are interested in different raw materials for different projects. It might be in your farm’s best interest to offer a selection of wools for these various purposes. If you’re already raising sheep, perhaps you’d like to welcome a couple of alpacas onto your farm. Or if extra space (or time!) is limited, maybe you could try adding some angora rabbits—a fast way to add a second wool variety.
2. Offer different fiber products
Besides offering fibers of different species to your CSA customers, you could offer various fiber choices. You could offer raw wool for them to spin themselves, natural or dyed yarn, or wool for felting.
No matter which product your fiber CSA customers choose, they’ll love it if you can tell them which individual animal produced their wool. Was it Baabara? Ewelalie? Your members will have fun with the knowledge that they “know” the sheep the produced their wool. And speaking of that…
3. Help customers feel connected
Besides the farm products themselves, part of the appeal of a CSA is that it gives members the chance to feel a real connection to the farm that produces the goods. This may be especially important for customers who love farms and farm life but don’t have the opportunity to experience it on a daily basis—or ever. And while CSAs that offer fresh produce generally need to be located near their customer base, a fiber CSA gives you the chance to deliver your fiber goods to customers all over the country.
To that end, consider providing your customers with regular farm updates along with the shipments of fiber products. And even if you promote your farm on social media, providing a printed newsletter goes a long way towards connecting with customers, especially when you allow the customer to vicariously experience farm life—the smell of new hay in the barn, the tinge of frost on a cold metal gate, the joys of new lambs and fresh pastures. Try to imagine what life is like for someone unfamiliar with farming. The small things you take for granted might seem like tiny miracles to them.
4. Host a shearing open house
Email is great and social media updates are fun, but the ultimate venue for allowing your customers to experience the community aspect of your fiber CSA is to occasionally offer an open house/farm day. If you’re interested in directly sharing the farm experience with customers, you’ll likely find great enthusiasm from your members.
Shearing day is always fascinating and exciting, so this is a great time to open your farm gates to the customers, but you could also choose another time of year—lambing, haying, or just a pretty summer afternoon for folks to “meet” the flock under a shady tree. Picturesque!
There’s plenty to like about fiber CSAs and plenty to consider before you get started. But January is a wonderful time to explore possibilities and make plans—have fun!
About the author
Samantha Johnson is a writer, farm girl, and the author of more than a dozen books on rural living. She lives on a farm in northern Wisconsin with a colorful herd of Welsh Mountain Ponies, a bossy Welsh Corgi, and a wide assortment of tomato plants. View her portfolio at samanthajohnson.contently.com
Here’s what one fiber producer offers https://localcolorfarmandfiber.com/
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