Athenry Farm Visit

On our drive down to Olds for Fibre Week, Alliston, Anna and I made a stop at Athenry farm just outside Innisfail to pick up a load of raw fleeces and roving. We pulled up just as the sun was setting, and as we got out of our cars, Zip the sheep dog ran over to greet us.

When we started the Alberta Yarn Project, this was exactly the kind of farm I was hoping to find. Kristen and Andrew Ritson-Bennett have a beautiful flock of Black Welsh Mountain Sheep, a primitive, rare breed that produces jet black fibre that is sought after by hand spinners. As a ruminant nutritionist and a veterinarian, Kristen and Andrew bring a breadth of knowledge and skill to their farming practice; but with full time jobs, a farm, and a family to take of, they aren’t left with much time to market their wool. (That’s where we come in!)

After we miraculously stuffed 23 fleeces into Anna’s tiny hatchback, and the giant bag of roving into Alliston’s van, Kristen took us out to meet the sheep. Zip expertly performed his sheep dog duties, herding the flock towards us, while Kristen found us each a baby lamb to hold as we chatted.

We were all so impressed by the level of animal care at Athenry farm, from the beautiful field the sheep have to frolic around in, to the elaborate fences and team of guard dogs they have to keep the sheep safe from predators. I was reminded that, for me at least, THIS is the point of the Alberta Yarn Project. To know with certainty that yarn I’m using is from happy, healthy sheep, and to have the opportunity to support responsible and sustainable farming practices. In a world where urban consumers are so disconnected from where our stuff comes from, it was such a thrill to meet Kristen and the sheep, and I’m so honoured to be able to share this experience with our customers back in the city.

If you happen to be in Olds for Fibre Week right now, stop by our booth in the Merchant Mall to check out the fleeces and roving we picked up! We’re selling skirted raw fleeces that were just sheared a few weeks ago for $30 or $40 depending on size and the amount of vegetation in the fleece, and we’re selling roving that was processed at Custom Woolen Mills from last year’s clip at $12 for 4oz.