Fibershed’s Community: ‘What Fibershed Means to Me’

The Fibershed community is ever-expanding, but our connective tissue — our belief in the importance of developing regional fiber systems that build soil and protect the health of our biosphere — remains strong. Brilliant farmers, producers, and artisans throughout the world are growing and creating goods that have the ability to connect people to the place they inhabit. Fibershed affiliates from the U.S. to Belgium to Sri Lanka are on the ground, doing grassroots work that promotes the development of regional fiber systems communities.

As we enter a new year of pursuing the systems and world we envision and believe in, we’re inspired by all of those who are working with us shoulder-to-shoulder (even if from afar). Below, just a few of our many producers and affiliates answer the question, “What does Fibershed mean to you?”

Lesley Roberts
Lead of Fibershed’s Southern California Chapter

“I became the lead for Fibershed’s Southern California chapter in Summer 2019. I was attracted to Fibershed’s clarity of purpose, and thought it would offer a meaningful way for me to contribute to a conversation I thought we should be having more. The experiences I’ve had, the people I’ve met, and the sense of shared hope and effort have been life-changing. What does Fibershed mean to me? The whole organization is a model of shared responsibility and egalitarianism. Every one of us is empowered to represent the movement, every one of us can develop a project or make a partnership or sustain a community. It has been an exercise in my own agency, that I don’t have to wait for someone else to save me (us), that committed people working on solutions can make a difference. I’ve been heartened and inspired by the people I’ve met. Their talent, commitment, and creativity lay out a vision of a future I’d be happy to live in. I think Fibershed’s model, Rebecca’s model, is that a single person with a vision, who has the generosity and expansiveness to invite other folks into the fold, can touch what’s best in all of us.”

Carol Lee Shanks
Fibershed Producer & Artisan

“As a native Northern Californian I am thrilled to have access to such fine materials to use in my creative work as a designer and maker of clothing and textile art. I applaud the many regional ranchers and textile producers who have made this dream a reality.”

Amy DuFault
Lead of Fibershed’s SE New England Chapter

“The term ‘fibershed’ has evolved so much for me over the 12 years I’ve been writing and talking about it. A macro to micro moment in my life I guess. At first, it was everything Rebecca Burgess: my hero, the person who inspired me to ask deeper questions as a sustainable fashion journalist in 2010. I mean, if we didn’t know where the fiber was coming from, like the farm or the condition of the soil, how could anything be truly sustainable? Rebecca is forever one of the most important people, who changed my professional and personal trajectory.

Over the years, getting to know the other fibersheds blossoming under Rebecca and her team’s mentoring and encouragement (my own Southeastern New England Fibershed in that pool), I began feeling a near allegiance to the movement, to the leaders in each state taking on their region’s fiber and natural dye past to make it present. It is a Herculean effort to do what we all do and mostly without financial reimbursement.

Our passions for this run deep, and if you asked how this barely controllable drive to do good started, the answers would fill you with awe. The answers would make you want to start a fibershed. From the textile puzzle each region offers to dare you to complete to the inherent activism it nudges you into, this group is so special.

Today, I look at each fibershed as central cores of industries long forgotten for cheap, convenient, fast, and replaceable. I see each fibershed with a face and a drive and a love that inspires me to push my own self further. I see over 55 heroes now. I see each of us as a vital part of a beautiful symphony orchestra singing softly all over the world, working towards our grand debut, that moment where we make all of this trial and error into permanent successes, where we blow the roof off the concert hall from our unified, fiber-filled song. I also call that love.”

Stijntje Jaspers & Martine Nieuwenhuis
Founders of Fibershed Nederland

“Fibershed means to us that we are part of a bigger plan, an international network of like-minded people who share the same mission and have the same drive to change the textile and clothing industry. To use what we have and what we grow of natural fibers to make textiles and clothing in a local value chain.

It is empowering to know that this is happening all over the world. The more Fibershed affiliates there will be, the more impact we can make. This system will provide a bigger offer and more variation of natural biodegradable textiles and clothing as an alternative to the polluting synthetic textiles, and it will show that a local value chain, or better, value network is possible as an alternative to the global scattered, unfair, and polluting current supply chain.

Our dream is that all countries will have a fibershed, that we can build a new regenerative textile and clothing system, and that textiles and clothing can contribute to healthy soil, CO2 mitigation, and biodiversity. We are humbled and immensely grateful to be part of Fibershed’s impact-driven network, where farmers, entrepreneurs, designers, makers, and researchers support each other. With this collaborative mindset, we share valuable insights and best practices on solutions that will truly contribute to the positive change this world needs.”

Nordenfjeldske Fibershed

“For us, Fibershed gives us the opportunity to work with our local community as a whole entity rather than through segmented groups. Fibershed provides not only a cooperation on the processing of fibre from farm to finished product, but also within a joint trademark. This gives us a platform where both local small or large businesses, various organizations, and educational institutes both national and international can work together. Individual fibre makers, farmers, designers or artisans are no longer alone.

In addition to this, the fibershed movement creates an endless open space where knowledge can be exchanged, meetings with fellow artists, researchers, or farmers can be arranged, and workshops can be held.”

Helen Krayenhoff
Co-Founder of Kassenhoff Growers

“Fibershed is a touchstone for me that I return to over and over as I try to navigate the accelerating climate disaster. When my mind and emotions flail around looking for ground to stand on, I go to Fibershed to see regeneration and healing in action. Fibershed is an ever-evolving model of holistic healing for the world I live in. I am so grateful for the wonderful community and the support of my own natural dyeing practice.”

Sandra Guidi
Owner of Black Rock Ranch

“We are incredibly grateful to have crossed paths with Rebecca Burgess and Fibershed in 2015 at a grazing class just before we welcomed our small flock of Santa Cruz Island sheep to the mountain. It should have been a bit daunting to begin an endeavor like this at the age of 55 and in a nontraditional sheep community like Stinson Beach, but Fibershed has provided us with a supportive environment to learn from longtime shepherds and the ability to connect with a wildly talented fiber community, beloved shearers, and creative natural dyers…a shepherd’s dream trifecta.

Fibershed’s online learning education was a life raft during the pandemic, and we were able to connect with other producers who shared information and challenges during the early stages of lockdown. Fibershed also provided us much-needed education with Teju Farrar about systemic racism and foundational tools and resources to move forward and deepen our understanding of the true history and roots of racism. This education has been an unexpected gift for which we are thankful to both Teju and Fibershed.

Fibershed has taught us about nourishing our soil, making compost, and a number of practices used in carbon farming to enhance the health of every living being both above and below the soil at the tiny ranch; through California’s fire and drought seasons we have seen this is the path forward.

Our most challenging undertaking to date has been our grazing project on the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in the heavily forested and fully fuel-loaded land just above us. It took us years of work to figure out how to get up there, and after a number of ‘no thank you’s in an intensely competitive grant world, Fibershed gave us a ‘yes please’ and awarded us a Carbon Farm Seed Fund grant, ensuring our sheep the opportunity to participate in some critically needed fuel reduction on Mount Tamalpais, while also clearing the way for biodiversity and a path towards better forest health.

We have a deep and abiding trust of Fibershed, which continues to grow over time.”