Tierra Vegetables farmer Lee James raises what she calls “the remnants of the oldest flock of Shetland sheep west of the Mississippi.” A small flock, around a dozen sheep, eats leftover produce and grazes her home acreage, but there are so few at this point that it’s hardly worth it to harvest their wool, she says.
“I keep them for the wool, but it doesn’t really pay for itself,” says James. Most of the world’s wool is now produced in Australia, New Zealand, and China, so the infrastructure in the U.S. has all but disappeared. The cost of shearing the sheep amounts to more than Lee can get for the wool. “It’s not something you’d get into to make a lot of money, but it’s something I really enjoy,” says James.
James has her sheep sheared every spring; most weeks of the year shoppers can find raw wool and yarn at the Tierra booth at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market in San Francisco, where it serves as a useful reminder that local agriculture does not stop at food. Read more