For 22 years, the Washington County
Fiber Tour, which takes place this year on
April 26 and 27, has been a showcase for
local specialty farms.
Fiber tour members raise some of the
highest quality sheep, goats, alpacas and
angora rabbits in the area, and operate a
premier fiber processing and spinning mill,
as well as a dairy-sheep farm.
This free explore-it-yourself tour takes
place rain or shine, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
on both days.
The 15 farms on the tour have contributed
to a renaissance in natural and sustainable
textile arts, and to a broadening of
agricultural businesses in the county, where
in the 1800s wool production dominated
The farms are fully part of the web of agriculture in Washington County by offering locally grown and made products for sale, by conducting educational activities, and by supporting other local agricultural businesses.
The tour includes farms that raise luxury and exquisite fine wools and fibers like wool from Merino and Cormo sheep, fibers from Cashmere and angora goats, soft fleeces from alpacas and fluffy fiber angora rabbits. Six of the farms raise romney sheep, a dual purpose breed known for tender lamb, and silky long wool.
People can make a reservation for lunch at the Dancing Ewe’s sheep dairy farm and participate in activities such as cart goat driving at St. Mary’s on the Hill, sheep shearing at Ensign Brook Farm, sheepdog herding, and finger puppets for children, as well as tours of the centrally-located Battenkill Carding and Spinning Mill.
The farms on the tour add to the diversity of agriculture in Washington County, and through grazing and hay making maintain about 750 acres in agricultural production, organizers said. Elihu Farm in Easton is conserved farm with a federally protected wetland.
According to the organizers, if it were not for tour members’ enterprises, much of this land, because it is not suited to the county’s large-scale dairy production, might have otherwise returned to scrub or woodland, or been turned into housing developments.
Several members operate multi-purpose farms, in addition to producing fiber. Many farms offer sales of breeding stock, meats, tuscan-style cheese, unprocessed and processed fiber products, and a wide variety of quality handcrafted items from yarn to garments designed by the members. Some farms will offer samples of lamb to eat, or frozen cuts to take home.
Local businesses that are gold sponsors for the 2014 tour include: A&J Enterprises, Battenkill Bovine Veterinary, Cargill, Country power products, Eric J. DeSimone – Farm Family Casualty insurance, Farm Credit East, Subway, and Washington County Farm Bureau. Other sponsors are listed on at washingtoncountyfibertour.org.
Photo Courtesy Washington Fiber Tour