Adding Value, Capacity and Versatility to a Cottage Based Wool Processing Business
Bonnie and Carl Ahrens of Martinsburg, MO received a 2001 SARE grant to establish a custom-processing mill that would supply small local producers with quality marketable products at a low cost. The Ahrens’ ABC Ranch produces corn and soybean row crops and also operates a flock of 15 Merino and Rambouillet Sheep as well as 40 angora rabbits. They have converted two buildings that were used in a previous cattle operation to help run the wool processing mill.
The goal for this grant was to help with the funding of a larger cottage fiber-processing mill that was capable of producing a greater output of products as well the quality of the products. This will help create better access to a quality mill for area producers and also to focus on any particular specifications that the producer may have.
The SARE grant helped with the funding of the new machine and also provided them with a good incentive to go forward with the project. The Ahrens were able to perform some research and eventually purchase a new and improved carder. The carder which they purchased performs better in both quantity and quality than any other cottage industry carder they had seen. “Customers send back wonderful comments with their checks on the quality of the processed fibers we are sending out and the timesaving is dramatic; we can do in one hour what used to take three hours,” explained the Ahrens’.
They have found a large amount of success in the fiber business and have created a good reputation for the quality of their work. The Ahrens have assisted others by answering questions concerning their carding machine or difficulties that they may have had with the fibers they were working with. The customer base for their operation had increased twenty two percent after purchasing the new machine and they are now receiving customers from other states due to such high recommendations.
They have shared the success of their grant and hard work through several tours and classes based on the different areas of the fiber field. They credit much of their success to all the knowledge that they have gained while taking part in this project.
ABC Ranch Naturals