University of Vermont

Cultivating Healthy Communities

Research Project:

The Vermont Wool Project: An Exploration of Whether Vermont Wool Can be Used as a Building & Household Material

Project Leader Kimberly Hagen with Open View Farm Owner Anna Freund

From 2007 to 2012 the number of sheep farms in Vermont increased 27%, and the number of sheep increased by 35%. However, for a variety of reasons, many sheep farmers have struggled to turn a profit. At the same time, growing interest in natural non-toxic materials as insulation for buildings could provide a market for raw wool. Insulation made from wool is already produced in Europe and in locations in the western United States.

Sheep must be sheared regularly in order to remain healthy, but there is not a ready market for the wool that is collected. This has meant that farmers often store bags and bags of the wool in their barns, accumulating a product that doesn't have a place to go.

Kimberly Hagen of the Center's Pasture Program (and herself a long-time sheep farmer) became aware that in other places, including Europe and the western US, enterprising farmers and interested partners in the building trades were turning wool into building insulation. Suzy Hodgson, who works on special projects with the Center, also saw the intrinsic properties of Vermont wool as a possible energy efficient and renewable home material.

In fall 2016, with funding from a USDA Rural Development grant in place and support from the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, the team announced a one-year feasibility study with the purpose of learning whether this is a possible fit for the needs of Vermont's shepherds and its green building trade. The project officially launches on January 1, 2017.

Project Team

Funders

Last modified December 02 2016 03:46 PM