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Central PA fiber farmers to showcase locally produced yarns and fiber at Penns Valley Fiber Festival

Spring Mills, Pa, 10/22/2019 – As the cold weather approaches you might ask yourself about that sweater or blanket you’re pulling out of the closet.  Was it “Made in the USA”?  And if it’s wool, do you have any idea where the fiber came from or where the yarn was spun?

Most garments worn in the United States in the first half of the 20th century were American made, but the decline of the American textile industry began after World War II, according to knitting and wool industries expert Clara Parkes.  She’s a member of the American Sheep Industry, an industry trade group, and author of several books on knitting.

Global wool production is dominated by Australia, New Zealand and China.  America ranks 3rd in the production of wool, and while the US produces 17% of the world’s wool, production has been gradually decreasing for decades.  In recent years, however, there’s been a slow-growing demand for wool yarn that’s completely produced in the United States, from sheep to skein, Parkes said.  One reason, she thinks, could be that consumers are turning back to wool because of the environmental risks of microplastics in garments made from synthetics.  The microplastics can be released into waterways when the synthetic garments are washed.

Locally-sourced yarn helps not only the environment, but local businesses too.  “There’s the environmental impact of shipping goods all the way across the world and bringing it back,” says Parkes, “But now people are asking themselves, ‘What if I can get the wool here and just keep it here?’”  The Penns Valley Fiber Festival is showcasing small domestic alpaca, goat and sheep farms and fiber micro-mills that produce hard to find fiber and yarns of the highest possible standards and quality right here in Central PA.

The festival is Saturday November 2, 2019 from 9AM to 4PM at the Old Gregg School and Community Center, 106 School Street, Spring Mills PA.  Admission and parking are free.  There will be demonstrations, workshops, and homemade baked goods and food. 

The festival started in 2014 with six vendors in a small venue in Millheim PA.  This year’s festival features 16 fiber farmers and artists and features many fiber related demonstrations and workshops.   Of the 16 vendors, 13 raise various breeds of sheep, 3 raise Alpacas, and some also raise goats. 

Dawn Shaffer of Lazy O Ranch says that “Buying yarn and other fiber goods from a nearby farm means that you know the farmer, know the animals, and know the methods used to produce your yarn.  Knowing all these things can be immensely satisfying.  You can look up from your knitting and think about a flock, not too far away from your location that is watching the same clouds and experiencing the same weather – as they grow next year’s clip of yarn.”

To showcase locally produced yarn and fiber, there will be a lecture/demonstration to introduce festival goers to all the types of fiber represented by the fiber producers at the festival.  You’ll be able to learn about and experience fiber from Alpacas and Angora Goats, along with wool from the following sheep breeds:  Coopworth, Icelandic, Leicester Longwool, Merino, Romney, Romney/Border Leicester crosses, Wensleydale and other mixed breed crosses.  The festival will also feature demonstrations and fiber-themed workshops such as; beginner knitting, beginner crochet, stranded color work, needle felting, chunky finger knitting with roving, drop spindle, beginner brioche knitting, spinning, and wool applique/rug hooking/rug punch needle, and embroidery punch needle.

Mike Arthur of Tamarack Farm says “Supporting local fiber farmers is good for the local economy and environment. Buying locally keeps your money in the community and helps to create jobs.  Local farmers help to preserve open space, keep taxes down, conserve fertile soil, protect water sources and sequester carbon from the atmosphere.  Fiber farm environments are a patchwork of fields, meadows, woods, ponds and buildings that provide habitat for wildlife in our communities.  By supporting local fiber farmers today, you are helping to ensure that there will be farms and fiber in your community tomorrow.”

For more information on the Penns Valley Fiber Festival please contact Tess Arthur at (814) 404-0148 or  You can also visit the festival on Facebook and Instagram at @pvfiberfest or online at



“Shop local” movement drives sales of American-made yarn

Follow in their footsteps, or be like them?

I have seen many posts on Facebook recently wanting Merle Haggard’s son, Ben Haggard, to release an original album. At first I thought it was great..actually I still would like to see this happen, but it got me thinking about superstars and their kids following in their footsteps.

Why do fans of Merle Haggard want Ben to release an album? Are they expecting a reincarnation of the legend? Even if he plays his own stuff, his fans will still be leftovers from Merle with a few new fans. Trolls will follow him and bash him on social media for living off his daddy’s fame. I’ve seen this with Hank Jr., Hank 3, Shooter and Whey Jennings, Rosanne Cash and many others. Shooter even stopped playing his daddy’s guitar for that reason maybe. It sounds easy enough to do, but does he really want to stand in the shadow of Merle?

On another view I can see this as the prime time for Ben to break into the scene because of the changing trends in country music. With the rise of Chris Stapleton, Cody Jinks, and Tyler Childers, a new sound is emerging from Nashville that is going to take country music back to its roots. For those skeptical of the the “going back to its roots” statement, take a look at country music history with Randy Travis, Alan Jackson, Travis Tritt, George Strait who helped bring the feel back in the 90s. In the 2000s we had Josh Turner, early Zac Brown Band, and Jamey Johnson. It always goes back to its roots until it trends away and goes back to pop country.

What do you all think? Should Ben Haggard release an album? Why?