Date of this Version
Published in Textile Society of America 2014 Biennial Symposium Proceedings: New Directions: Examining the Past, Creating the Future, Los Angeles, California, September 10–14, 2014,
Sustainable fashion expert Rebecca Burgess introduced the notion “fibershed” in 2011 as an allusion to “watershed,” which refers to bodies of water that pass through several geographic regions. “Fibershed” includes not only fibers like wool, but also mills and fiber studios within a particular region. Little is known about the diversity of fiber resources available in New York’s rural communities. Assessing New York’s fibershed can be beneficial to textile/ apparel production within the state. Resources within the fibershed can support economic growth in New York’s rural regions through both agro-tourism and linkages with New York City’s fashion industry. To assess the New York state fibershed, including the amount of fibers available, marketing strategies, challenges, and benefits of having a fiber farm, a survey was distributed to fiber farmers between July and August 2013. Responses from approximately 67 fiber farmers reveal that wool, alpaca, mohair, cashmere, angora, and llama fibers are available. Wool and alpaca are the most abundant. New York farmers sell yarn (76%), roving (73%), clothing and/ or accessories (64%), and household textiles (50%). Marketing platforms farmers use include informative labels on products (53.7%), direct conversations with customers (68.7%), and the Internet (55.2%). Major challenges fiber farmers experience are identifying a target market and selling “tactile” fiber products online. The average annual income farmers derive from fiber products is $10,000 or less. Benefits include supporting a sub-culture of people interested in fibers, animals, sustainability, and agriculture. Farmers welcome the public to visit their farms as part of agro-tourism; this fosters social and community development among farmers, local community members, and tourists. Connecting fiber animals to products and people can nurture a community-based apparel value chain. Integrating diverse, local, animal fibers into New York’s apparel/textile industry can stimulate further development of fiber farms, mill infrastructure, and contribute to economic development.