SFA’s Sustainable Sheep networking group is for producers wishing to make raising sheep a locally supported and viable pursuit or those interested in locally raised fiber or meat. For more information, contact Alethea Kenney at email@example.com or 1.844.922.5573 Ext. 715.
Sheep have been an integral part of Minnesota’s heritage and continue to be a growing part of diverse farms across Minnesota, and SFA’s Sustainable Sheep networking group focuses on connecting sheep farmers, youth, fiber artists and consumers that want to promote, use and sell sustainably raised sheep, meat and fiber products locally.
This group also has a unique opportunity to promote sustainable ways to raise sheep and to educate the public in the importance of choosing local, sustainable fiber for their garments, projects and art.
One goal of the SFA Sustainable Sheep Networking Group is to pull producers together on the sheepcommunity.com website that allows consumers to access local products. Research is being planned to determine the market for local lamb and ways to increase consumer awareness of local products from sheep.
Seeing northern Minnesota sheep producers moving toward grass-based sustainable sheep production and more sheep products available and being purchased locally is the ultimate goal of the SFA Sustainable Sheep networking group. Please join us in seeing these goals become reality.
Sustainable Sheep and Fiber Community of Northern Minnesota
This community of sheep and fiber producers in northern Minnesota are working to empower producers, educate consumers, build relationships and support communities. More information at sheepcommunity.com
News & Events
Small Scale Sustainable Sheep Farming Event
Plan to Attend the 3rd Annual Small Scale Sustainable Sheep Farming Event
February 18, 2017
New Journey Church
505 9th St.
Fosston, MN 56542
10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
$15 for SSFC or SFA members
Please Pre-register by Feb. 12
Pay at the door
For more information or to have an information booth or display
SSFC Updates and Junior Board Member Scholarship Opportunity: Julie Zilka
Wool: Its Properties and Possibilities: Julie Zilka
Minnesota Meat Inspection: How Producers Can Get Their Products to Consumers: Andy Siira (MDA)
Livestock Guardian Dogs – the right choice for predator control?: Colleen Williams, Stoney Brook Maremmas
Keeping Fleeces Clean: Byron Johnson
Annual SSFC meeting and Voting for Board of Directors
Twin Valley, MN
Northwest Minnesota Foundation
Northwest Regional Sustainable Development Partnership
Sustainable Farming Association of Minnesota
Back in Balance Minerals®
North Central Feed Products
Duchene: Improving forage and livestock production through managed grazing: This presentation will discuss the value of grazing management to improve forage productivity and discuss whether pastures should be re-seeded or whether grazing management can address the productivity issues alone or in conjunction with other management practices. The bottom line will be to raise healthier, more productive forages and grazing animals.
Johnson: Get better prices for your wool. Clean fleeces bring higher prices, learn how to keep your fleeces cleaner.
Zilka: Wool, one of the earliest fibers to be spun and woven into cloth, is one of the most important animal fibers used in the textile industry. In this presentation we will discuss the properties of wool, and what makes it such a unique and versatile fiber. We’ll talk about the different breeds of sheep, the differences in their fiber, and the uses of their various fiber types in the textile market as well as what makes a fleece desirable to hand spinners and the craft market. The discussion will include tips for the care and feeding of animals for fiber production.
Jeff Duchene is a Grazing Lands Specialist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service. He has served in this role for over 10 years, the past 8 with NRCS. He works with livestock producers on developing pasture management strategies to improve forage and livestock production through managed grazing systems.
Byron Johnson has lived in the Bemidji area for 63 years. His father raised sheep and Byron has been shearing for over 30 years. His father sold the original family homestead to the state park and Byron now lives one mile away from the old place. In his spare time, Byron fishes, weaves baskets and pursues other hobbies. He also works on the pipeline.
Andy Siira is a meat inspector with the MN Dept. of Agriculture. In his role with the Dept. of Agriculture he inspects meat shops that are licensed for equal to production. This equal to program is the equivalent to USDA inspection and allows shops to sell their products throughout the state of Minnesota. Part of his equal to inspection role includes inspecting the harvest of animals allowing the products produced from these animals to be sold by producers throughout Minnesota. Additional inspection duties include inspecting multi-ingredient product production and cook records as well as sanitation practices etc. within licensed facilities. Andy was raised on a grazing dairy south of Brandon and has raised sheep since he was a first grader. In high school he was lambing 65 ewes and the income made from this enterprise helped him pay for college. Andy attended South Dakota State University and earned Bachelor of Science degrees in Animal Science and Agronomy. Andy lives south of Brandon with his wife and 4 children (the oldest, a seventh grader, will be lambing 6 ewes this winter).
Colleen Williams is a Veterinary Technician, who has been employed in small animal medicine since 1994. She also raise registered Hampshire and Dorper sheep, along with a handful of meat goats on her farm, Stoneybrook Maremmas. She came upon a Maremma Sheepdog purely by accident 14 years ago and was fascinated by how she interacted with the sheep. Since then, Colleen has come to love and respect this breed for their incredible bonding instinct. She has dedicated her heart to promoting the Maremma Sheepdog and to mentoring new owners in their journey of raising a successful livestock guardian dog.
Sheep producer and fiber teacher, Julie Zilka, divides her time between St. Paul, where she works as a Systems Analyst for the University of St. Thomas, and Park Rapids where she is a beginner Shepherd.
A lifelong fascination with natural fibers and the fiber arts prompted her to take up shepherding. Julie and her husband raise Finn, Gotland, and Cormo wethers, along with a very opinionated female Shetland, as a fiber flock.
Beyond the production of her own fiber projects, she is an advocate for the preservation of cultural handcraft techniques and works to promote the use of locally produced fiber and fiber products.
Julie is a member of the Weavers Guild of Minnesota, the Midwest Weavers Guild, and the Sustainable Sheep and Fiber Community of Northern Minnesota. She teaches classes in fiber preparation and spinning.
Junior Board Member Scholarship Opportunity
The Sustainable Sheep and Fiber Community of Northern Minnesota (SSFC) Junior Board member position offers high school level young adults, who will be at least 16 years old by January 1 of the year they are applying for, the opportunity to learn about local sustainability, develop leadership skills, and is a wonderful way to make a difference in their community through service. A junior board member is elected each year at the annual meeting held in conjunction with the Sustainable Sheep Farming event. During their one year term the junior board member will attend at least one SSFC board meeting and assist with the planning and development of SSFC events.
Junior Board Member Benefits include:
- One year membership in the SSFC
- $250 Scholarship for the Higher Education Institution of their choice
- A great way to build your resume for work and college! We will write letters of recommendation, document your accomplishments, and recognize them at the SSFC annual meeting
For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Beginning Shepherding Workshop
In Partnership with U. of MN Extension Hubbard Co.
June 10, 2017
1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Snacks and Coffee
1505 Park Avenue South
Park Rapids, MN 56470
$10/person for SFA or SSFC member
Pay at the Door
The Beginning Shepherding Workshop is a great way to learn some basics about sheep or goat care and how to get started and keep your animals healthy. Come learn from some of our local producers and educators and network with fellow farmers and fiber artists.
Using a Microscope for Fecals– Margo Hanson, Marsh Creek Crossing Farm
Fiber Preparation and Fleece Skirting- Julie Zilka, Wether’sField Farm, Trudy Delich, Berry Hill Farm
Alternatives to Parasite Control– Alethea Kenney, Reedbird Farm/Boreal Balance, LLC
Fosston Fiber Festival 2016
Thank you to all our sponsors, vendors, instructors and attendees. The 2nd Annual Fosston Fiber Festival was a huge success! We’ll see you all again next year.
Caroline Waskow of HoneyGold Acres at her vendor booth 2016 (above)
Kathy Belt describes the handmade coat Corrina Ricke created and modeled at the Fashion Show (right)
Lynn Mizner of Chengwatana Farm, Palisade, MN sets up her vendor booth at Fosston Fiber Festival 2015.
Fosston Fiber Festival is September 30 – October 2, 2016 at the Magellsen Elementary School and New Journey Church New vendors and instructors are being listed regularly. Check the website fosstonfiberfestival.com or like us on Facebook!
The Small Scale Sustainable Sheep Farming event was held Feb. 20 at the Fosston Civic Center.
Click here to download Lynn Sue Mizner’s presentation slides from her session, “A Year-Round Income Stream,” at the Small-Scale Sustainable Sheep Farming conference.
Icelandic ewe and lamb Fiber artist Kathy Belt shows items made of wool to attendees.
Felter and fiber artist Patricia Lovegreen shows her modern weaving. Attendees enjoy a presentation at the Small Scale Sustainable Sheep Farming Event
Photos taken at the event by Bernis Ingvaldson.
The conference focused on the benefit of sheep as part of a sustainable farming system where meat and wool are viable value-added products.
Speakers included Mark Hayek, grazing specialist with the NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service) who presented on ”Building Resiliency in Pasture Systems”. This presentation focused on understanding the four ecological processes and the biological community and how the various pasture conditions contributes to the health and function of each process.
Alethea Kenney elaborated on the Sustainable Sheep Community Project that involves pulling together sheep producers and educating consumers to create better markets for local, sustainably raised meat and wool products. An advisory board was created and will be working on furthering the project goals.
Environmental Anthropologist Keila McCracken gave an update on the Northern Minnesota Fibershed.
Jennifer Wilder presented “Midwest Textiles: A Photo Journal Tour”.
Lynn Mizner of Chengwatana Farm Black Welsh Mountain Sheep and CSA did a presentation on “Generating a Year-Round Income From Heritage Sheep.” The slides are now available.
Educational displays and businesses related to sheep and farming were in attendance. A sampling of the booths included Tara Smith of Green Tara Farm who discussed raising fiber animals and demonstrated spinning. Colleen Williams of Stoneybrook Maremmas had information available on livestock guard dogs and her breeding program. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s Lisa Wetzel was on hand to answer questions about meat and milk marketing. North Central Feed Products, LLC and Back in Balance Minerals® had a booth of their products available. A tour of Northern Woolen Mills followed the event.
For information on future events, contact email@example.com or 218-657-2502
This event was sponsored in part by:
Northwest Regional Sustainable Development Partnership
Northwest Minnesota Foundation
Sustainable Farming Association
Northern Woolen Mill
North Central Feed Products, LLC
Back in Balance Minerals®
Biographies for Presenters:
Mark Hayek: MN NRCS NW Regional Grazing Specialist
Mark Hayek was born and raised in Lake Elmo, MN. In 1998 Mark graduated from North Dakota State University with an undergraduate degree in Range Management. Prior to joining NRCS in 2002 Mark worked for NDSU as a Range Technician and for MN DNR applying land management treatments to prairies across the state. NRCS promoted Mark from Soil Conservation Technician to Area Grazing Lands Specialist in 2004, where he now works primarily with livestock producers, conservation partners, and NRCS field offices to apply grazing lands conservation practices (such as rotational grazing systems) in NW Minnesota. Mark works out of the NRCS Field Support Office in Thief River Falls, MN.
Alethea Kenney is a natural health professional specializing in holistic animal care and raises fiber animals at Reedbird Farm. She has designed a bioavailable livestock mineral product that fits her philosophy and farm needs, Back in Balance Minerals®. This line of minerals is now available nationwide from North Central Feed Products, Gonvick, MN. Alethea also writes and teaches about ancient fiber techniques and natural dyes, and herbs and minerals as they relate to health in humans and animals.
Keila McCracken is an Environmental Anthropologist that concentrates on sustainable fiber systems. She is the founder and organizer of the Northern Minnesota Fibershed where the mission is to support local economies and communities through the implementation of environmentally sustainable practices. The Northern Minnesota Fibeshed is currently working to raise awareness about out local fibers being raised and grown in our region and how we can better utilize these resources to more efficiently meet our local fiber needs.
Lynn Mizner is a resident of Palisade, in north central Minnesota. She owns and operates Chengwatana Farm, a 100% grassfed meat operation that produces market lambs and beef, and registered breeding stock of a Black Welsh Mountain sheep. Her farm operates according to organic, biodynamic, and permaculture principles. Lynn is passionate about local food and fiber, and sustainable farming.
Lynn graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in aquatic biology, environmental science emphasis. She then obtained her Masters Degree in Fisheries and Wildlife Management from the University of Minnesota. In 1995 she was awarded the Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship by Minnesota SeaGrant, and worked for 15 months as an endangered species policy fellow specializing in native peoples’ treaty fishing rights affected by the Endangered Species Act. She responded to a request to return to Minnesota in 1997 and joined the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources as a treaty fisheries specialist during the Mille Lacs (1837) Treaty conflict. When that case was resolved in the courts, Lynn was picked up by the Division of Forestry as a project manager. She has worked as a forest resource management planner for the Division since 2001. While working for the DNR, Lynn attended Hamline University School of Law, graduating with a certificate in Alternative Dispute Resolution in 2009.
Jennifer Wilder is owner of Wildwood Press started in 2009 as a way to combine her enthusiasm for textile arts and to create awareness of the rich textile community within the Midwest. She writes and publishes stories that feature Midwest fiber and textile people and places and she also works with local communities to create Fiber Arts Trails in their area. So far, Wildwood Press has created awareness of over 145 Midwest fiber artists through printed publications, online feature stories, exhibits and events.
The mission of Wildwood Press is to honor the Midwest’s rich textile heritage and celebrate and promote the work of contemporary fiber artists. The Midwest Fiber Arts Trails are where fiber enthusiasts can find useful information, resources, insights and inspiration for their own creative expression, opportunities to participate in fiber arts activities and to plan fun trips around the Midwest.
There are two events each year that support the group, the Small Scale Sustainable Sheep Farming event (Feb. 20, 2016) and the Fosston Fiber Festival (Oct. 1-2, 2016).
First Annual Fosston Fiber Festival a Success
By Alethea Kenney
The first annual Fosston Fiber Festival, held Oct. 2-4 at the Northern Woolen Mills in Fosston, featured workshops in a variety of fiber arts techniques and tours of the woolen mill. A full slate of vendors sold fiber-related wares and art – everything from raw fleece to hand-dyed yarns, handmade glass beads, fiber art and weavings were represented.
Saturday, sustainable fashion designer Keila McCracken discussed the Northern Minnesota Fibershed, a movement where locally raised fiber is turned into locally made garments.
There were ongoing free demonstrations on various fiber techniques and attendees were able to participate and learn new skills. Several vendors donated lovely items for a raffle, proceeds of which supported the fiber festival.
There was also a Fashion Show that included over 30 items of handmade clothing and accessories that were modeled by various vendors and instructors.