You might not have thought about wool as a water-dependent crop. At the grocery, we see immediate impacts in pricing when crops fail or animal fodder becomes scarce, but what about our beloved fiber arts supplies?
The effect the current drought is having on fiber animal farmers around the country was recently highlighted for me when a fellow Phat Fiber contributor, NatchWoolie, lost access to water on her farm. When the natural water supply ran dry, she had to drive all the way to town to buy truckloads of water to bring back for her animals several times a day! Talk about unsustainable.
Fortunately for this particular farmer, the Phat Fiber community came together to raise funds to get her a water meter and hookup to her local municipal water supply. But what about other farms? The fiber arts community has a lot of generous people, but not everyone has bottomless disposable income, and it can be difficult to scrape together even a little extra spending money these days. It’s unlikely a community fundraiser will be able to save every farm suffering from drought conditions.
The water shortage affects the food and water supply for the animals, the temperatures the animals can handle, the cost of washing and processing shorn fleece, and even the cost and availability of dyeing processes. Water is instrumental in producing fiber arts materials. There is a lot of focus on keeping it clean (pollution laws) and using it sustainably, but where supply is dependent on nature we have significantly less control.
This past year we have had extreme floods and extreme drought in the US. Every inch of rainfall isn’t created equal; a torrential downpour will run over the ground into drains and gutters without infiltrating into the ground, while a slow drizzle will end up almost entirely absorbed by the soil. When it comes to water supply, unless we somehow come up with a way to capture and store all that extra water from large storm events so it can slowly sink into the ground, those inches of rain might as well not exist.
So will we see a rise in the prices of our favorite materials? It’s possible. Some producers may have to raise prices to account for higher cost of production, and some businesses may not survive through the drought at all. One thing you might do as a fiber artist is look into supporting your local fiber farms by giving them a call (or an email) and seeing how they are doing. You never know when you might be able to help someone out and make a new friend in the fiber community!
Not sure how to find a local farm? How about starting with the list of vendors & exhibitors at a fiber festival near you. Farmers often love to talk about their animals, and you might even get invited out for a visit!
Dyet Yarns blog posts by Adrian "Nuri" Steinhauer are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.