Developing Profitable and Sustainable Fiber Markets in Southern Minnesota

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2014: $19,800.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2015
Region: North Central
State: Minnesota
Project Coordinator:
Jean Mueller
State of Minnesota

Annual Reports

Information Products


  • Animals: goats, rabbits, sheep


  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, focus group, networking
  • Farm Business Management: new enterprise development, marketing management, e-commerce, feasibility study, market study, value added, agritourism
  • Sustainable Communities: new business opportunities, sustainability measures

    Proposal summary:

    We would like to develop a robust sector of sustainable, fiber animal farms in southeast Minnesota and grow markets for fiber and fiber animal products. This project will include exploring local and regional markets, developing an educational network, and conducting an educational event.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Goal 1) Conduct a feasibility study of markets for products from fiber animals. This will include, a) determining the current number of sheep & other fiber animals in southeast Minnesota; b) surveying fiber animal owners to understand how their animals are being used, markets, marketing, economics of their enterprises, and their interest in expanding their business and collaborating with others; c) exploring how the natural fiber industry is doing nationally and what innovative efforts are finding success. (Eg. California has established a Fibershed and is part of the Slow Cloth movement.); d) identifying and interviewing fiber users as to the opportunities and barriers to integrating local fiber into their supply chain (e.g. Faribault Woolen Mills).


    Goal 2) Develop and implement a fiber farmer learning network. This will include: a) using local networks and media to identify and develop a list of fiber animal farmers or those interested in this type of farming; b) hold four meetings to share how members are working with their animals, managing their land, processing and marketing their products. Experts from NRCS, Extension, or other organizations will be invited to share resources and programs; c) hold two farmer-led field days to see first hand how farmers are managing their animals and their land.

    3) Conduct a two-day Sheep and Fiber Farm Tour to raise awareness and support for this industry. Participants will be able to see the fiber animals, learn how they are rasied and cared for, and what is involved in fiber farming. Information will be provided on the benefits of natural fibers along with demonstrations on its different uses. The event will also focus on the environmental benefits of fiber animals for improving soil and managing invasive species. Implementing this event will include: a) planning the event; b) engaging at least 5 sites to be part of the tour; c) marketing the event throughout the region; d) conducting the event; and e) evaluating the success of the event.


    May 2014
    Meet with team and additional guests to review project plans.
    Work with Minnesota Department of Agriculture to identify number of sheep and fiber animals and farms raising these types of animals in southeast Minnesota.
    Conduct outreach to identify farmers and aspiring farmers in southeast Minnesota who want to be part of the fiber farmer learning network.
    Determine which farm will host the field day.

    June 2014
    Hold the first farmer learning network meeting.
    Make plans for the field day, including developing outreach materials, identifying any guest speakers (e.g. NRCS grazing specialist...), and logistics for the day.
    Begin promoting the field day.
    Start planning for the October Sheep and Fiber Farm Tour, including identifying sites that will be on the tour.

    July 2014
    Promote field day.
    Host field day.
    Develop outreach and promotional materials for October Tour. Begin promoting October Tour.

    August 2014
    Hold farmer learning network meeting. Continue to promote October tour. Begin to develop survey.

    September 2014
    Assist sites for October tour with preparing to host the public. Implement plan to reach media regarding October tour.
    Begin research on national fiber industry and efforts in other places.

    October 2014
    Hold Sheep and Fiber Farm Tour. Complete survey set up.

    November 2014
    Implement survey.
    Hold learning network meeting.
    Continue to conduct research on fiber industry.

    January – February 2015 Analyze survey. Interview fiber buyers.

    March 2015
    Complete report on fiber and fiber animal sector and possibilities in the region. Hold learning network meeting.
    Plan second field day.

    May 2015
    Hold second field day.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.