WASHINGTON CO., N.Y. — Since the early 1800’s, Washington County has been a welcoming home for wool and other fiber production. Join us as we celebrate the 25th annual Washington County Fiber Tour on April 29th and 30th, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and learn about a cottage industry that has enjoyed a renaissance in recent years as people re-invest in their local community. This self-guided tour of eleven farms and a fiber mill is free and open to the public.
“I’m very excited for the 25th anniversary of the fiber tour,” said Sylvia Graham of Fiber Kingdom, which raises Angora rabbits. “I’ve been a part of it since the very beginning. When we started this [Fiber Tour] so many years ago I didn’t realize what it would evolve into. I love interacting with the public and seeing the amazement that first-timers have when they see the animals that produce natural fibers. They can’t believe how you can do something with those fibers that is not only useful, but quite beautiful.”
While wool from sheep may be the best-known animal fiber for many, Washington County prides itself on the diverse farms that raise everything from angora rabbits, cashmere and mohair-producing goats to alpacas and several breeds of sheep. Many fiber farmers exhibit their animals and products nationally, where they have won major awards at events like the Eastern States Exposition, the NYS Sheep and Wool Festival, the New England area North American Cashmere Goat Show, the Empire Alpaca Extravaganza, and the Southern Adirondack Fiber Festival. Enjoy the unique opportunity to learn from farmers throughout the county as they introduce you to their livestock and answer questions about their animals and the myriad uses of the fibers that they produce.
New to the fiber tour this year is Truthville Fiber Farm, which has been in operation for almost two years and raises Huacaya alpaca. “While this is our first year on the tour, we’ve visited farms during the tour before, heard great things about it, and thought this would be a wonderful next step towards getting involved,” said James Joseph of Truthville Fiber. “We’re looking forward to getting our name out there and hoping to help people understand more about natural fiber and what it can do for them.”
Our local commercial fiber mill, Battenkill Fibers Carding and Spinning Mill, will be open all weekend for tours. Take the opportunity to catch a rare behind-the-scenes glimpse of an essential aspect of the fiber world. Visitors can observe the many steps, the manufacturing equipment, and the skilled labor needed to turn shorn fleeces into premium yarn for knitting or weaving.
The Fiber Tour also offers the chance to not only learn about the fiber arts but to try your hand at a new 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, finger puppets, 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, and fiber mill store 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. Our full color brochure includes a map, and can be downloaded from the website or you can pick one up at any participating venue.
While visiting the farms, enjoy the beautiful scenery! Washington County is full of friendly villages with plenty of unique stores, all within an easy driving distance of the Capital District and nearby western New England. With a number of lovely country inns and bed & breakfasts, spread your tour out over both days and stay the night. Stop by a farm-to-table eatery and enjoy a hearty meal that features local foods. See www.washingtonnycounty.com for lodging and dining information.
Gold Sponsors for the 2017 Fiber Tour include Farm Credit East, A & J Enterprises of Salem, Inc., Country Power Products, Inc., In the Night Kitchen Farm, and the Hill Country Observer. Other sponsors are listed on www.washingtoncountyfibertour.org.
—Washington County Fiber Tour
For more articles out of New York, click here.