Tamara Miller of Via Verde Farms
(Ada, MI), Bridget Patrick of Happy Goat Lucky Ewe Farm
(Mason, MI) and Sheila Miller of Miller's Llamaland (Potterville, MI) are the founders of the new Michigan Fiber Industry Coalition, an organization that will serve as a catalyst for entrepreneurs and small businesses with a "Made in Michigan" ethos and work ethic.
Miller says the concept is fairly simple but can have a profound impact within the natural fiber industry. "The basic idea of this is not only a cooperative for our farmers and a CSA for a value-added product (yarn) but creating a fiber hub," she says. "The fiber hub pulls all elements of this industry together, from fashion designers, manufacturers, the farmers, mills, dyers, seamstresses, etc. It is a pretty amazing venture."
Miller estimates there are about 5,000 Michigan fiber farmers that grow many different types of fiber: alpaca, angora, cashmere, wool, llama, yak, bison, and camel. She says that most of the fiber farming in Michigan is an individual, small business venture at this time. "They create products off their farm but do not have many choices when it comes to sale opportunities. It is anticipated that a more competitive market can be established if fiber growers consolidate their resources," she says.
Millers says this consolidation would encourage a growth in Michigan fiber farms, promote rural jobs through the supply chain and offer a more lucrative price point for natural fiber.
Pending some paperwork with the state, the official launch of the Michigan Fiber Coalition is expected in the next couple of weeks. Miller says they plan to begin collecting fiber in May. The headquarters will be at Via Verde Farm in Ada and the fiber will be stored at Happy Goat Lucky Ewe Farm during collection and until the time it will be sent for processing.
Natural fibers are making a big comeback, says Miller, and the state is slowly getting recognition for the efforts. She says that Stonehenge Fiber Mill, one of the two "mini-mills" (fiber-processing businesses that wash, pick, card and spin the fiber into yarn) in the state, processed all the yarn for the Olympic uniforms designed by Ralph Lauren in the 2014 Winter Olympics.
To learn more about the the new organization you can contact Miller from her Via Verde Farms site here.
Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor.