Woolens expands product line

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— The Routt County Woolens is branching out its operations this year to offer more opportunities to local wool growers by diversifying its product line.

Since 1997, the Woolens has collected wool from the area's agriculture producers, paid them a premium price, made holiday wool blankets and sold them in Routt County near Christmastime.

This year, as always, the blankets are offered at F.M. Light and Sons, Elk River Farm and Feed and Soda Creek Mercantile.

In addition to the blankets, the 2000 product line for the Woolens includes hats, vests, gloves, pot holders and a variety of other wool products.

But these items can't be found at the stores, said Nancy Mucklow, spokeswoman for the Woolens.

The new items are being offered from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at the Christmas in the Rockies Fair at Strawberry Park Elementary School. A Routt County Woolens booth will be set up to sell the products.

"We're trying to diversify," Mucklow said.

Instead of just offering a seasonal product such as the blankets, Mucklow said the Woolens wants to be able to make wool garments and other useful items year-round.

That means wool growers are getting a premium price for more of their wool.

In 1997, 5,000 pounds of wool were bought to make the first line of blankets.

In 2000, that number more than doubled, with the Woolens collecting 12,000 pounds.

The wool is sent to Minnesota to be cleaned and woven into the products.

The increase in the amount collected means a little extra financial help for local agricultural producers.

"They get more than double than people get on the open market," Mucklow said of the price paid for the wool.

By offering a price for wool that's well above market value, the Woolens tries to give local sheep ranchers an incentive to stay in the business.

And with the blankets becoming a popular Christmas item in Routt County, plus the new line of products coming out, the Woolens hopes to create a market for wool grown in the Yampa Valley, especially on the local level.

If interested buyers miss the Christmas in the Rockies Fair, they can log on to the Web site at www.coloradowool.net to make an order.

"They can also just call us," Mucklow said.

The Woolens is accepting telephone orders at 871-6363.

Orders over the Internet and telephone cannot be guaranteed to make it by Christmas.

To reach Doug Crowl call 871-4206

or e-mail dcrowl@amigo.net

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