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Fibershed & Fiber Farmers: Part I

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Fibershed & Fiber Farmers: Part I

Kari Lorenson

Knotwe Lab's Visit to Bellasera Alpaca Farm in Union Bridge Maryland

Knotwe Lab's Visit to Bellasera Alpaca Farm in Union Bridge Maryland

"We envision the emergence of an international system of regional textile supply chains that enliven individual community connection and ownership of ‘Soil-to-Skin’ processes.  These diverse textile cultures are designed to regenerate the natural systems on which they depend, while directly enhancing the strength of regional economies.  Fiber systems–like food systems, are dependent upon agricultural processes that now face a drastically changing climate, and must utilize the best of time-honored knowledge and available science for their long-term ability to thrive." "~excerpt from Fibershed Vision statement.

The Fibershed Project was started by Rebecca Burgess in California when Burgess through research realized that fiber farmers were forced to discard quantities of their fiber harvest because of a lack of local mills or being priced out of the option to process the fibers for textiles. Fibershed highlights supporting fiber farmers more effectively getting their fibers processed  into material for the hands of their local artisans and designers and in turn sold in local storefronts. The project has expanded to a full program that is having global impact with affiliate Fibershed groups establishing themselves and connecting the entire system of production from farmer to design to manufacturing to wearable clothing all made with a reduced ecological footprint from traditional systems of production and distribution of textiles and fashion. This is a growing field known as bioregional clothing

A few weeks ago, Knotwe posted about finding local resources and outreach to local fiber farms. Here in Maryland, the last few weeks has given Knotwe Labs insight and inspiration to continue to reach out to fiber farmers and learn about the industry and the tight knit support systems that fiber farmers rely on to not only take care of their alpaca but also  process their fibers to market. 

Knotwe's first visit was to Brezzy Hill Alpaca Farm in Woodbine, Maryland. Breezy Hill Alpaca Farm is a family-run operation owned by Alex and Heather Lysantri. The farm is home to about 18 alpacca with a mission toward high-quality alpaca fibers in a nurturing sprawl of the rolling green hills of Howard County. Knotwe visited the farm this past April as milder temperatures and blossoms were finally beginning to show.

 

Breezy Hill Alpaca Farm in Woodbine, Maryland

Breezy Hill Alpaca Farm in Woodbine, Maryland

Alex toured us through the farm which includes a variety of exotic chickens, an adorable goat, a lamb that seemed to own the front porch of the Breezy Hill Farm main house, a donkey, miniature horse, rabbits and the list goes on. Alex takes great pride in his alpaca and exudes a love and dedication to the health and well-being of the livestock that is infectious. 

Breezy Hill Alpaca Farm, small & friendly goat happy to pose for the camera.

Breezy Hill Alpaca Farm, small & friendly goat happy to pose for the camera.

The alpaca at Breezy Hill Alpaca Farm produce prize winning fiber. And as we learned from Alex, the cost of introducing high-quality new family members to the herd is surprisingly thousands of dollars of strategic investment. In talking with other alpaca farmers in the area, it is quite clear that Alex and Heather's alpaca herd and their efforts to insure healthy, high-quality breeding is highly respected throughout the alpaca community in Maryland. 

An alpaca just sheared at the once a year shearing event at Bellasera Alpaca Farm in Union Bridge, Maryland

An alpaca just sheared at the once a year shearing event at Bellasera Alpaca Farm in Union Bridge, Maryland

We finished up the visit at Breezy Hill by stepping into the fiber boutique that Alex and Heather have carved out of their larger barn. They sell alpaca roving, yarns, garments made from alpaca fibers and assorted toys that render the adorable presence of an alpaca as a desktop size companion that may (if you are not converted by your visit) satiate the alpaca farmer within that stays with you long after leaving Breezy Hill Alpaca Farm.

To learn more about Fibershed visit fibershed.com

To learn more about Breezy Hill Alpaca Farm visit bhalpaca.com

Next: Fibershed & Fiber Farmer Part II: Shearing Day: Alex Lysantri from Breezy Hill Alpaca Farm invited Knotwe Labs to the annual shearing day event at Bellasera Alpaca Farm.