California cotton breeder Sally Fox is most widely known for organic cottons that grow in a luscious range of tans, greens, and warm browns. Sally also keeps a growing flock of natural color Merinos roaming her Capay Valley fields—such fleecy goodness!
Like many members of the spinning community, I’ve followed Sally Fox’s work over the years, enjoyed spinning her gorgeous cotton slivers, and lusted after her small-batch fabrics. Her work in cotton genetics has led to many accolades, including being named an American Inventor by the Smithsonian Institution. In researching Sally’s cotton journey for a 2014 Spin Off article, “Enduring Color: Sally Fox, natural-color cotton, and the politics of diversity,” I learned about the fine-fleeced flock that roams Sally’s farm.
The farm is uses organic practices and crop rotations to build and maintain soil. Fields might have cotton one year and wheat or pasture the next. When in pasture, the flock grazes forage through the year, transforming it into two important products: fine, natural color wool and the precious manure that fertilizes the fields, feeding soil microbes and increasing the soil’s ability to hold water and nutrients.
Sheep can help us maintain or revitalize agricultural spaces when managed well. And we receive the gift of wool in return. You can learn more about Sally’s lovely finewool flock in my book, The Practical Spinner’s Guide: Wool.
Featured Image: The natural ovine colors mirrored in the springtime hills of California’s Capay Valley, northwest of Sacramento. Photos by Kate Larson