Meet Imperial Stock Ranch, the ranch which provides the beautiful, high quality wool for our sweaters.
Spanning more than 32,000 acres in Oregon’s high desert, the ranch was established 146 years ago. Their sheep graze the lands which vitalizes the plants and encourages healthy strands of grass to grow on the high desert landscape.
Sustainability is a way of life here. Imperial Stock Ranch has adopted “no-till” farming practices, which means that they no longer plow the land.
Sustainability is a way of life here. Imperial Stock Ranch has adopted “no-till” farming practices, which means that they no longer plow the land. Not only has this preserved the soil and doubled the yield of annual harvests, but the lack of tilling reduces erosion and use of fossil fuels, improves stream water quality and benefits local fish and wildlife populations.
By supporting farmers who produce a beautiful, quality product in a sustainable way, we are stimulating an industry that has been in steady decline since the 1940s.
The United States used to be the world’s fifth largest wool producer. Today, it accounts for less than 1% of wool production.
Despite this declining market, Imperial Stock Ranch is thriving as both brands and consumers demand more accountability for their products.
Jeanne Carver, Co-Owner of Imperial Stock Ranch with her husband Dan Carver, discussed with us the following topics about the history and process of harvesting the wool.
Can you describe the sheep shearing process?
Shearing at Imperial Stock Ranch takes place at the ranch headquarters in the historic shearing shed. Using electric shears, the expert shearers carefully remove the fleece of each sheep, which comes off in one piece, in 3 to 5 minutes, ready to toss onto the skirting table. We use the same shearing crew each year, and they, along with our ranch family and crew, assure the sheep are handled in a manner that reduces any potential stress.
How is the wool sorted once it is sheared?
Each individual fleece is carefully inspected on a “skirting table,” where unusually dirty wool located on the belly or other areas is removed, and the wool is "classed or graded" immediately, according to the diameter (fineness) and length of the fibers. The wool is baled by grade for shipping.
Where does the wool go to be processed and how is it prepared for market?
Since 1999, the Imperial Stock Ranch has been guiding wool through processing, and selling a value-added product like yarn. And over the years, a number of solid relationships have developed with wool processors and spinning mills that remain in the United States. Today, our wool is shipped to the southeast (USA), where the only wool “top” maker is located. That is the first step toward making yarns and products.
What is your vision for the future of the wool industry?
I believe there will always be a future for wool. Since 10,000 B.C., wool has been the core of man’s textiles. A miracle fiber, it will continue to set the standard for both comfort and performance. Trends in wool product today, require finer micron wools, so those wools will have the strongest price points in the market. There will also be a growing interest, similar to what we’ve seen in the food industry, for certified wool that is produced to standards for land management and animal care.
I would like to think the U.S. can remain competitive in wool, and our U.S. producers and textile manufacturers are working together to assure the future. We appreciate the commitments made to both sourcing and manufacturing in the U.S., by designers and brands. We are stronger together.