WASHINGTON CO., N.Y. — Since the early 1800’s, Washington County has been a hub for wool and fiber production in the Northeast. Join us as we celebrate the 29th annual Washington County Fiber Tour — April 24-25, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day, and learn about how our fiber farms raise high quality livestock and contribute to agricultural diversity in upstate New York. This self-guided tour of nine farms and a fiber mill is free and open to the public. Visitors can see sheep, goats, alpacas, and rabbits, as well as many examples of fiber arts from small scale to large commercial operations, while safely enjoying our scenic countryside. All facilities will be practicing social distancing in outdoor or open buildings; and masks are required.
New to the Tour this year is Simple Pleasures Yarn, Fiber and Fleece in Hebron, which has been producing wool and wool blend yarns for over 22 years, using the wool from their small flock of Romney sheep. The locally-milled yarn is left natural or hand-dyed at the farm. In addition to yarns, Simple Pleasures also sells roving, raw fleeces and hand- woven rugs.
The other new Tour farm is Lily of the Valley in Shushan. Owners Ray and Beth Olson said, “We are excited to share our knowledge of raising sheep for yarn, roving and fleeces.” The Olson’s flock consists of 10 sheep ranging from fine to medium wool. They will have yarn, natural and dyed, roving, and fleeces available for sale along with spinning and fiber demonstrations. They said, “We are looking forward to showing fiber enthusiasts how they can raise and enjoy sheep and their wonderful products on a small scale.”
Farms returning to the Tour for 2021 include Elihu Farm, one of the longest participating farms on the Tour; and Ensign Brook Farm in Greenwich with their fine Merino and Merino-cross sheep and an active 4-H club producing the next generation of upstate shepherds. Dancing Ewe Farm in Granville, a sheep dairy producing Tuscan-style cheeses and offering gourmet dining seasonally, also processes the medium wool from their flock of 120 Fresian-cross ewes as blankets and knitting yarn. During the Tour, they will be offering woolcraft demos, shearing, sheepdog demos, and lunch, by reservation only.
Alpacas of Haven Hill Farm near Greenwich showcases the beautiful South American alpaca and is joined in 2021 by two other area alpaca farms. Quarry Ridge Alpacas north of Salem features award-winning alpacas, including two machos (male alpacas) who have won 24 Championships between them. Dandy Gander Farm in Granville, which began as a small homestead family farm, now has 40 alpacas in addition to sheep, ducks, geese, and chickens. Fiber Kingdom in Salem, the longest continuous participant on the Tour, specializes in raising Angora rabbits.
At one time there were thirteen fiber mills along the Battenkill River; now there is only one – New York State’s largest carding and spinning mill, Battenkill Fibers. Small group tours of the facility will be offered both days – first come, first serve and with all CDC required precautions. New this year – a combed top machine.
The Washington County Fiber Tour offers the chance for visitors to learn about fiber arts and to try their hand at a new craft technique. Most farms offer educational demonstrations and fun workshops throughout the weekend, showcasing a variety of fiber arts suitable for children and adults. Demonstrations include sheep shearing, sheepdog herding, felting, dyeing, spinning, weaving, finger puppets, cart goat training, and more. Children and adults alike will love the newborn lambs, goat kids, alpaca crias, and other baby animals found on many of the farms.
For visitors who want to buy local, the on-farm shops, studios, fiber mill store, and pop-up sales tents all offer quality products for sale. Fleeces, roving, and yarns, as well as many finished articles, are available at most locations along the tour; and several farms have livestock for sale, as well.
The Fiber Tour takes place rain or shine and visitors should dress for the weather. Visit www.washingtoncountyfibertour.org for details about the farms and specific activities being offered. Announcements about the Tour are also posted on Facebook and Instagram.
–Washington County Fiber Tour
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