Sheep-to-Shawl: Creating a Solution-Based Strategy that Addresses the Fragmented Fiber Production Infrastructure

Project Overview

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2018: $15,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2019
Grant Recipient: Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Monika Roth
Cornell Cooperative Extension Tompkins County

Information Products


  • Animals: camelids, goats, sheep
  • Animal Products: fiber, fur, leather


  • Education and Training: farmer to farmer, networking, participatory research
  • Farm Business Management: feasibility study, market study
  • Sustainable Communities: infrastructure analysis

    Proposal abstract:

    There are over 470 fiber producing farms in NY State, and of these over 180 are in the Finger Lakes region. Many of these farms are small flock and family owned, and are not sustainable due to a decrease in the American wool market. In 1910 the value of wool was $0.22/lb-wool, equivalent to $5.48/lb-wool today, but the current value is $1.45/lb-wool [6]. This decrease in market value has led to a fragmented fiber processing (sheep-to-shawl) infrastructure, making it difficult for fiber farmers to get a return on production. Even with the recent increase in attention paid to consumer education and marketing of American wool, fiber farmers still struggle due to the lack of solution-aimed research on the fragmented sheep-to-shawl infrastructure that farmers must navigate.

    By performing traditional research and collaboratively utilizing measurable project management protocols this project aims to achieve four primary objectives: 1. Fully understand current infrastructure and what changes are needed for it to function properly. 2. Design a collaborative strategy to address these issues. 3. Collaboratively solve a handful of high-priority regional infrastructure issues. 4. Disseminate the strategy to other communities who are also experiencing sheep-to-shawl infrastructure failures.

    Dissemination of information gained will occur using traditional methods of outreach: Hosting a conference, writing a blog, and publishing a newsletter. A brochure, that describes a strategy to collaborate and solve regional infrastructure concerns, will also be produced and disseminated through the newsletter, at ag. extensions, and via one-to-one interaction at fiber festivals through-out the North East.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    This project has 4 objectives:

    1.Research current fiber infrastructure shortcomings and strengths, by defining:

    a.Current infrastructure organization: successes, failures, and what lead to its current state. b.Infrastructure needs in order for regional fiber farms to be sustainable.

    2.Collaborate and initiate community with a group of Finger Lakes fiber farmers to:

    a.Determine how to address and find solutions for existing infrastructure shortcomings.

    b.Produce a replicable strategy that will aid other communities in addressing sheep-to-shawl infrastructure issues, using project management techniques.

    3.Solve (with farmer collaborators) 2 – 3 high-need/high-feasibility challenges highlighted during the collaboration phase.

    4.Disseminate information on effective strategies so that other fiber communities can begin to communally address infrastructure issues, and ask for feedback.

    To be deemed successful, Finger Lakes fiber farmers will note the existence of a more coherent community as well as an added ability to communally pinpoint and solve regional sheep-to-shawl infrastructure problems. They will also note an increase in their future prospects regarding quality of life, productivity, and return. These impacts will be measured by a survey that will be disseminated at the beginning and end of the grant year.

    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.