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25.07.06
The Natural Fibre Company

A scheme for organic sheep farmers to make more money using traditional methods to spin wool is being launched next month by a new company in Cornwall.

Cornish Organic Wool works with farmers to turn a fleece worth 50p into knitting wool that, after processing, can sell for much more. Currently farmers send their fleeces to the Wool Marketing Board at a loss because a sheep costs at least 70p to shear. But Julia and Matt Hopson, the Penzance-based founders of Cornish Organic Wool are reviving the local spinning of organic wool. The widespread home-based hand-spinning industry effectively died in Cornwall with the invention of James Hargreaves' spinning jenny around 1760 and the traditional industry moved mainly to Yorkshire.

They are working with Sue Blacker who with the help of Objective One European funding six months ago started production at The Natural Fibre Company, a fully organically accredited traditional wool mill at Launceston. Sue organises the yarn spinning while Julia Hopson has designed kits that use the organic wool, for anything from handbags, to traditional knitwear like ganseys and hats.

Their project, which is backed by the local MP Andrew George and various local agencies, will be launched at Kingsley Village off the A30 at Fraddon on 3 August.

Not every sheep fleece is suitable for turning into knitting wool or weaving into fabric. Some breeds are more suitable than others and a flock needs careful husbandry so that sheep are sheared at the right time and in the best possible condition. Another stumbling block is the word organic as some farmers although not officially authenticated as organic by the Soil Association think their sheep qualify just because they don't use chemical fertilisers or feed.

"Once the word is out that you are looking for wool to spin everybody thinks their fleeces will qualify, but what we need is farmers with large flocks and a universally-recognised accreditation," says Hopson. "Wool has become a by-product of the farmer's main interest – meat. It may mean making changes to some farming practices and paying more attention to detail at shearing, but the farmers we've so far worked with are delighted with the results. Keeping things local and adding value in Cornwall means Cornish Organic Wool can pay farmers more in the future. The wool we are producing now is as pure as that spun here over 300 years ago and thanks to the Internet we can tell the world that Cornish wool is back."

For further information please contact Sue Blacker of the Natural Fibre Company on 01736 367069.

The Objective One Programme for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly has invested in the Natural Fibre Company and Kingsley Village through the European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund (EAGGF).

Anyone considering a new horticulture, food and land based industries project is advised to speak with Martin Butler at Government Office South West on 01752 635134 before commencing development as there are now only limited funds available due to the successful uptake of funding by the agricultural sector in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

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Editor's notes:

Please see The Natural Fibre Company website at: www.thenaturalfibre.co.uk
Please see Cornish Organic Wool's website at: www.cornishwool.co.uk
Please see Kingsley Village website at: www.kingsleyvillage.com

For further information, please telephone:
Mat and Julia Hopson, Cornish Organic Wool on 01736 367069 or 07976 153204
Sue Blacker, The Natural Fibre Company on 01566 777635 or 07767 650119
John Marshall, Kingsley Village on 01726 861111

The Natural Fibre Company specialises in adding value to rare and British breed fibres, including wool, mohair and alpaca. Wool is amongst the most pure and "green" natural fibres and we are pleased to be working with Cornish Organic Wool to help develop the market for high quality and truly sustainable products from Cornwall.

Kingsley Village is pleased to support the Cornish Organic Wool launch and their products will compliment the range and quality of what we offer on our extensive Cornish Craft section. The value added to the primary producers fits well with our ethos and approach to promoting Cornish products.

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Clare Morgan
Media Relations Manager
Objective One Partnership Office
Castle House
Pydar Street
Truro TR1 2UD
Mobile: 07973 813647
Telephone: 01872 223439

cmorgan@cornwall.gov.uk

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