The HVADC Cultivator
Mary Jeanne Packer talks to the March 1st Local Lamb participants about Fiber Production
Mary Jeanne Packer
HVADC Client Spotlight: Battenkill Fibers
Battenkill Fibers, a carding and spinning mill that manufactures yarn and fiber products for wholesale and retail markets in Greenwich, New York, has worked with Hudson Valley AgriBusiness Development Corporation (HVADC) to develop a public-private partnership to expand its fiber mill’s grass-roots operations, and is also presenting as part of HVADC’s “Local Lamb Lesson” education series.
Mary Jeanne Packer founded Battenkill Fibers in 2009 in order to provide custom carding and spinning services for fiber farms and to manufacture yarn and fiber products for wholesale and retail markets. The mill brought over a dozen new full-time and part-time jobs to rural Washington County, New York. In 2015, Battenkill Fibers was recognized as Washington County Small Business of the Year.
Battenkill Fibers provides value-added, custom carding and spinning for fiber farms and manufactures artisan-quality, premium knitting yarns using traditional semi-worsted milling machinery. The mill produces 100-150 pounds of artisan quality natural-colored and dyed semi-worsted yarn daily, using refurbished traditional milling machinery. The mill receives wool and fiber for processing from over 350 farms, however had suffered limited production capacity due to equipment and space constraints, preventing the mill from taking it to the next level.
In 2013, HVADC worked with Battenkill Fibers to develop a strategic plan for expansion and identify ways to finance the project. HVADC prepared a grant application for the USDA Rural Business Enterprise Grant (RBEG). To read more about this grant type, visit https://www.rd.usda.gov/programs-services/rural-business-development-grants.
Due to the nature of the grant, HVADC was the actual applicant, and successfully secured $60,000 of grant funds for Battenkill Fibers to use toward the purchase of specialized equipment to expand the processing capabilities, increase product availability and improve product quality.
Thanks to the collaboration with HVADC, Battenkill Fibers is now able to use more local fiber in manufacturing yarn for national customers and be more competitive in bidding on these jobs, thereby opening up the possibilities of more local and national marketplaces. Battenkill Fibers is now also able to provide greater quality value-added products for its farm-based customers, and local farms will have a better market for their lower quality fleeces.
"The support we received from HVADC has been invaluable in supporting the growth and expansion of our company. Adding our new opener machine and a second pin drafter more than doubled our daily outputs while also greatly improving the quality of our spinning fibers." stated Mary Jeanne Packer.
Not all sheep make high quality fleece; which is right for you?
As part of HVADC’s “Local Lamb Lesson” workshop series, Mary Jeanne Packer presented a session on Fiber Processing, March 1at Columbia-Greene Community College. Attendees had the opportunity to tap into her extensive knowledge-base and experience, and learn about the intricacies of fiber processing. The workshop reviewed various qualities of sheep and their fleece, what one needs to know about fiber processing, fleece and wool management, profit calculation and partnership opportunities. Attendees are also scheduled to take a field visit to Battenkill Fibers on March 15.
Packer is also one of the founders and president of the farmer/producer-owned Southern Adirondack Fiber Producers Cooperative which hosted its 7th annual wool pool for the region’s sheep farmers in June 2017. The Coop offers annual fleece quality management workshops for farmers and for the first time in 2017, produced locally-sourced blankets for re-sale by cooperative members.