This episode is the first in a series about how raw fiber is transformed into what we can wear and use. Infrastructure may not be the most warm and fuzzy part of a fiber system, but it’s the key to creating soil to soil economies.
Ben Hostetler joins us to describe the journey of wool through a fiber mill, and the shifting landscape of domestic textile manufacturing. Ben is the Operations Manager for Mountain Meadow Wool mill in Buffalo, Wyoming, and we first connected back in 2016 during the research phase of Fibershed’s National Mill Inventory. The National Mill Inventory includes an explorer tool that can help connect you to milling infrastructure in your region; in our Northern California, we’re now so fortunate to have three wool mills within our home geography, the Northern California Fibershed: Mendocino Wool & Fiber Mill, Valley Oak Wool Mill and Woolgatherer Carding mill. These mills are serving farmers in the region by creating products including roving and yarns that are breed and even flock specific.
The reason why I wanted to connect with Ben for to open our conversation about infrastructure is that mill size and scale fall across a gradient, and because Mountain Meadow Wool Mill is a mid-size mill, they have a unique perspective on the state of fiber processing services in the US. We talk about how the size of a mill effects its capabilities and what type of customers it can serve, and how the United States textile industry is in a precarious yet needed more than ever to meet the desire for transparent and ethical supply chains.
- Mountain Meadow Wool mill’s website
- Updates on Mountain Meadow’s knitting machinery: Burma to Buffalo! Bringing Business Back to America
- Fibershed’s National Mill Inventory report, background, and video presentation
- National Mill Inventory map and explorer tool
- Fibershed’s 2014 Wool Mill feasibility study
- The Livestock Conservancy’s Shear ‘Em to Save ‘Em Initiative
- TexWorld USA – a sourcing event and trade show in New York
- Wool: Unraveling an American Story of Artisans and Innovation by Peggy Hart, owner/operator of Bedfellow Blankets mill in Massachusetts
- Is New England Manufacturing Dead? Blog post by Emma Werowinski for the Southeastern New England Fibershed
- Why America Stopped Making Its Own Clothes by Stephanie Vatz, a quick review on trade and global manufacturing in the 20th century
Thanks for listening to the fourth episode of Soil to Soil, a podcast connecting the dots in the lifecycle of clothing and material culture, brought to you by Fibershed, which is a non-profit organization based in Northern California. Each episode offers a look at how, and why, our community is working to cultivate fiber and dye systems that build soil & protect the health of our biosphere.
This episode is hosted by Jess Daniels, with production support from Whetstone Media and music by Arann Harris. Photo credits: cover image by Paige Green Photography; photo of Ben presenting to a gathering of Northern California Fibershed producers by Marie Hoff; milling equipment snapshot by Jess Daniels.
Find this show in the iTunes library by searching for “Soil to Soil,” where we invite you to subscribe and leave a review to encourage more listeners to join us. We welcome your questions and feedback directly to firstname.lastname@example.org.