Shear Hard Work, Providing a Needed Service Are Building Blocks of Success for Mariposa Woolen Mill
Although Mariposa Woolen Mill has been open to the public for less than a full year, the prospects for long term success are already pretty bright. This is in large part thanks to the foundation built by owners Ellen and Dave Edney, who run the facility, located at 1275 Highway 7 in Oakwood. In an amazingly short period of time, it has blossomed into a burgeoning family enterprise, serving the entire Kawartha Lakes region and beyond.
Built on the property known as the Lenberg Farms, and the former location of the popular Mariposa Dairy, the Edneys took over the facilities of the farm from the previous owner in 2018. Ellen is the daughter of Bruce and Sharon Vandenberg, who founded Mariposa Dairy in 1985. Although the property has changed hands a couple of times since the dairy was moved to Lindsay in 2007, the buildings remained viable for the Edney’s new use.
This is when opportunity met timing for the Edneys, as they were at a bit of a crossroads in their lives as new parents, and with Ellen not sure she wanted to work outside of the home.
“When I was expecting our second child, I thought about going back to school, but then we heard that when the goats were leaving, this facility would be open, so the barns would be available pretty much for a fresh start. My parents went on vacation about two years or so ago and they stumbled across a woolen mill just outside Charlottetown PEI and saw these machines that processed fibre and told me about it. So, I flew out for some training and after that Dave and I figured that sort of business would be a good fit for the existing building, and especially for our lifestyle,” she said, adding that they opened for business a little over a year ago, but didn’t open to the public for six months after that.
‘We take our sheep wool and angora fibres, rolled up and stuffed into bags. From there, we do everything from skirting to washing to carding, up to spinning and finishing off a yarn. We also do felting and custom work. What sets Dave and I apart is that we have six different breeds of heritage sheep of our own, so we have small flocks of those six, as well as angora goats. Each of those breeds is on a conservation list because they have traits that don’t really fit with commercial sheep farming,” she explained.
“We have all those breeds and they have very unique fibres. We chose them for their colour, their texture – either super soft of having a great curl. We picked them to give them a purpose again for people looking for something breed specific. We also use general Kawartha Lakes commercial sheep wool for different products and we also just opened our door for custom work. People can bring in their fibres, be it sheep or alpaca, and we can process it to what they like.”
As well, Mariposa Woolen Mill is able to felt certain fibres, with the felt going to make finished felted products. At Christmas time their felted tree skirts and stockings were hits with shoppers. The retail portion of the facility also sells cheese and other products from Mariposa Dairy, on top of the various yarns and processed fibre products.
The biggest challenge facing the Edneys was learning as much as possible about wool and wool processing, and how to impart the message of the versatility and sustainability of wool as a resource to the greater public.
“I wasn’t ever really part of the fibre world before. I have always had an interest in sustainability but never really had any inkling that it would be part of my future. So, I not only had to learn all of these pieces of equipment and the ins and outs of that, but also that different fibres have different recipes, what is a good yarn, what’s not a good yarn, what fibres you can actually felt, what ones don’t,” she explained.
“And getting the message out that wool is pretty much the definition of sustainability has been a challenge. It’s a wonderful natural product that grows back every year. But how do you now incorporate it into daily living, especially if you’re not a knitter or a crafter? How can we make wool important again? So, that’s what I have been wracking my brain about. Also, it’s been a challenge telling people what we do, because we’re not a yarn shop. We are trying to focus more on the agricultural side of it – this is where the raw product is, this is where it comes from, this is the purpose of it, this is what it could be. That’s the approach I am taking, and I feel the message is starting to get out there.”
Moving forward, Edney said diversifying what they can process at the mill and what they can sell in the retail side of the operation will continue to be a goal, as is her mission to promote the benefits of wool.
“I believe in the properties it offers and I do believe it’s something that more and more people will be interested in as they learn about what a wonderful resource it is. If people are looking for a durable, natural material that is truly sustainable – wool is the way to go. It literally grows on tens of thousands of animals within this region each and every year.”
For more information, call 705-928-5670, or visit them online at http://mariposawoolenmill.ca.
For more information about starting, expanding or relocating a business to Ontario East, please CONTACT us.