Made with 100% American-grown wool and certified under the Responsible Wool Standard, our incredibly soft Tahoe Wool Blanket is a must have with an interesting story. When crafting this new, cozy essential we wanted to make sure we worked with the highest quality ranchers. Imperial Yarn Ranch is renowned in the sustainable community and we are excited to have worked with them to bring you this incredibly soft and insulating blanket. Learn more about what it's like to run a farm and the rewards of working with natural fibers in our discussion with Stacie Chavez of Imperial.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I was born in Maine and then moved to New Mexico as a young girl. I did all of my schooling in New Mexico: I graduated from the University of New Mexico with a business degree and then went to work. My husband and I discovered alpacas in 2009, and we very quickly discovered we loved raising livestock. We put our focus on breeding for a herd with low-micron, dense white fiber. In 2012 I started the National Fiber Initiative for Alpaca. What does that mean? I started collecting and selling fiber from our ranch and other ranches around the country to yarn producers both in the United States and internationally. In 2015 I left my fifteen-year career in designing and selling jewelry, and purchased Imperial Yarn with my partner Lynn Edens. And, as they say, the rest is history. I am living my dream on a large ranch in Oregon that hosts a large number of white Huacaya alpacas that we raise for fiber. We are one of the first ranches in America that open ranges animals. We are currently working on all aspects of proper rotational grazing, animal husbandry standards customized for alpacas, and land management. We have become stewards of the land and shepherds over our herd. We love our lives.
How do you keep your wool sustainable and healthy?
We keep our herd healthy and sustainable by using rotational grazing, adhering to healthy animal husbandry, and making sure we are managing the land correctly. We are working on our reseeding plan and planting trees for wind break and shade for the animals. We are doing everything we can do to run a sustainable livestock business. Our number one goal is happy, healthy animals that produce exceptional fiber for our home textiles, apparel and accessories.
What does it mean to be certified under the Responsible Wool Standard?
The Imperial Stock Ranch from which we source our wool is one of the first ranches in the United States to be certified under the Responsible Wool Standard. That assures me that the animals and the land are being taken care of correctly and that an outside group has confirmed this with an onsite audit.
How do you believe these efforts come across in the final product?
These efforts help to guarantee that the fields the animals are eating from are healthy and producing the right kind of forage to help grow thriving animals that produce a wool that is healthy and that we can confidently use in our products.
How did you get involved with Fibershed, and what are some things you’ve learned through working with them?
I became aware of Fibershed several years ago when a friend introduced me to Rebecca Burgess. Rebecca and I began talking on the phone periodically and very quickly felt we had a shared synergy. I am so excited to be working with the Fibershed in California, and I am looking forward to working on a carbon farming plan for our ranch. We all want to make sure that we take care of the resources that we have available for our lifetime and also for the future. I have so enjoyed learning about the benefits of sequestering carbon. It’s really something that can be done without a lot of additional effort on our part and can make such a difference to our environment.
What has been the hardest part about running your own farm?
Well, number one is that you work seven days a week. The animals need to be tended to every day. We make sure that we check on everyone early in the morning and then again as the sun is setting. We walk and try to check on everyone daily. I don’t know that I would call the work hard, as much as it is rewarding.
What has been surprising about running your own farm?
The number one surprise for me is how much I enjoy being out with our herd. I love being amongst the animals and being one with the herd. We have a large herd of alpacas and a small flock of sheep. I have enjoyed getting to know how they are similar and how they are very different. The babies from both sheep and alpacas are so fun to watch. Lambs and crias, or baby alpacas, are fascinating creatures. I find it interesting that both groups of young ones love to run and play at nightfall. The lambs have some interesting high jumps and acrobatic moves that they do. While crias run fast around the pasture and pronk like deer. It gives my heart joy to see.
What is the most rewarding part about running Imperial Yarn?
There are so many aspects that are rewarding in running the day-to-day operations. I would have to say number one is making a product, that is “homegrown,” meaning the wool and alpaca that is used in the products we offer comes from our hard work and also from the other ranches we work hard with. I love being part of something that means so much; it is the history of our nation and how it was built. I also love sharing our yarns with the designers of tomorrow and seeing them build our sustainability story into the brands they are creating.
What is the best part about buying products made from natural fibers?
Great question! It’s so funny. Ten years ago I knew what wool was, but I knew nothing about different breeds of sheep, alpaca, or the natural insulating and cooling aspects of natural fiber. Now I have become a natural fiber queen, when I see something that catches my eye, the first thing I do is read the label to see what the fiber content is. Sometimes I have to walk away because the product is not made with natural fibers and the first thing that comes to my mind is sustainability. What will happen to this product when I am done with it? Can it be composted and turned back into soil and start the process all over again? If the answer is “no,” I don’t buy it. I have discovered the benefits of wearing natural fibers, and I no longer want to wear synthetics.
Why should consumers seek products made with natural fibers?
The number one reason consumers should seek out natural fibers is they are sustainable. I believe we should all be asking ourselves, “Will this go in the landfill, or can I put it in my compost pile when I am done? How can this help the environment?”
Any final thoughts?
I have truly enjoyed working with the team at Coyuchi. I have learned so much from them and what it means to be sustainable. I applaud that Coyuchi stays true to their brand and their beliefs by working with natural fibers. I am looking forward to the future that we will create together.