DILLON – A Montana sheep ranch is blazing an exciting trail by creating more value for their wool by launching its very own Sheep-to-Shelf clothing line.
“We were tired of getting commodity pricing for our wool. We were really putting in the extra work to make it a little bit better than the general commodity” said Evan Helle of Helle Livestock in Dillon.
It was this frustration that inspired the Helle Family to create Duckworth, the world’s only source-verified, single-origin Merino wool apparel company.
All the wool used is 100% Made-in-the-USA from their very own Helle Rambouillet Merino flock and certified Duckworth Wool Cooperative growers.
“Being able to market our wool in a niche market really allows us to get better margins. It’s also fun to see where the end product actually goes,” said Helle. “Getting to wear the wool off the ranch is really rewarding.”
Don Rogers is president of Duckworth and previously worked for clothing giants like Benneton and L.L. Bean. He said wool has an amazing story to tell and consumers are listening.
“Wool is the original performance fiber and more people in the United States are getting turned onto it,” said Rogers. “They’re realizing it’s not their grandfather’s itchy Irish fishermen’s sweater. It makes a beautiful base layer and really just depends on how we do it.”
“We’re using that American know-how and technology to create some absolute gorgeous garments out of wool and really turning on a bunch of new consumers. All the development that’s been going on in the polyester and nylon world is really just trying to replicate the attributes that wool has always had,” Rogers added.
Schnee’s in Bozeman is just one of the many locations in the United States and the world where you can find Duckworth clothing apparel. Owner John Edwards says Duckworth’s Sheep-to-Shelf concept is resonating well with customers.
“People seem to really appreciate the quality of the Duckworth products and the fact that it’s all made in America,” said Edwards. “We’ve been able to tap into the Helle resource of some premium Merino fiber and people seem to really respond well to it.”
For wool producers like the Helles, it’s also rewarding to know their Duckworth brand is helping to create jobs and keep the U.S. textile industry alive.
“There’s a lot of jobs that we’re supporting,” said Helle. “Some of the factories that we work with have 150 people working there. So, there’s a lot of American jobs involved in the textile industry. It’s really unique that its domestic wool made domestically and sold domestically. It’s pretty unique in the world textile industry.”
Duckworth is a great example of where resurrecting the lost art and craft of American wool is their mission. And their Sheep-to-Shelf process all begins with a rancher’s stewardship of the land and livestock.
-Russell Nemetz reporting for MTN News