On April 12, 2022, the Campaign for Wool in Canada and the Canadian Wool Council (CFW /CWC) held a virtual town hall to discuss the relevance of the Campaign and the Wool Plan to artisans and mini-mill operators.
Michale Raske’s October 2021 Digits & Threads article The Wool Plan Aims to Reinvigorate the Canadian Wool Industry provides excellent background on the Wool Plan:
The Campaign for Wool, founded in 2010 by HRH Prince Charles and currently operating in thirteen countries globally, has a modest objective: “increase the demand for wool by explaining its many benefits to consumers.” This year, the Canadian group launched its five-year Wool Plan 2021-2026, a strategic framework for reviving and strengthening the Canadian wool industry, which declined after World War II from a sustainable national textile industry to a cheap commodities pipeline for the export of 90% of our wool. The Wool Plan sets an ambitious path to rebrand and revalue Canadian wool, advocate for everyone from sheep farmers to Canadian consumers, and increase awareness of Canadian wool internationally.
The virtual town hall was hosted by Matthew Rowe (CEO, CFW/CWC) and Jane Underhill (Strategy Consultant to the CFW/CWC and President of Wool Advocates). A key rationale for the town hall was, in Jane’s words, a sense that the campaign had “not had a chance to interact with small farmers, artisans, mini-mill operators and consumers.” The obstacles to increasing the Canadian wool industry, along with ten tactics to address and overcome these obstacles, were reviewed. They can be found in the Strategic Plan.
For a synopsis of the importance of sheep and wool in sustainability, climate change, and a circular economy, Matthew shared a link for the recent documentary Why Wool Matters.
Matthew then went on to provide a brief history of his involvement with the CFW/CWC and the importance of the artisanal sector. He identified some achievements and upcoming initiatives, including the creation of Canada’s first seat at the International Wool Textile Organization. Matthew mentioned specific projects and videos to highlight the importance of Canadian wool, including
- Point-of-sale kits for artisans and retailers to educate the consumer about the wonders of Canadian wool
- One Hundred Mile Blazer
- Needle-felted portrait of the campaign’s patron, HRH The Prince of Wales
- Profile of long-standing Newfoundland knitting cooperative NONIA
- An upcoming government-funded video called The Fabric of Canada, to tell the story of Canadian wool
- Rug Hooking Guild of Newfoundland and Labrador commission to recreate a painting by J.E.H. MacDonald, one of the Group of Seven artists
- An upcoming government-funded video on the Coast Salish peoples and Salish Weaving
Obstacles to a regenerated Canadian wool industry, including education, outreach, branding, brokerage, and infrastructure, were discussed.
CFW/CWC goals to address these obstacles include
- Educating farmers on wool quality requirements
- Developing a national wool policy with a checklist of wool care, handling techniques, and traceability
- Branding Canadian wool as a sustainable, durable product
- Demonstrating to our national textile industry that Canadian wool is worth the investment
- Ensuring that farmers can earn premium pricing for raw and processed wool
- Decreasing sales of raw Canadian wool to foreign markets (using it within Canada)
- Setting up a social give-back program to the Canadian wool industry, making it financially independent
- Facilitating a dialogue between supply chain silos, so all participants in the process understand the needs of those before and after them
- Recognizing that mini mills have challenges in meeting the needs of farmers in a timely fashion, and encouraging local processors to increase their capacity and workforce in an environmentally sustainable fashion
- Working with shipping companies to develop the best options for transporting wool across the continent
Artisans, farmers, and grassroots level entrepreneurs express a common misconception that the Wool Plan is promising subsidies and grants, but this is not the case. The Wool Plan’s goal is to act as an advocate, develop models for improved branding of Canadian wool, and work with all levels of the wool chain to help them develop resilience using the strategic plan as a framework.
Both Matthew and Jane acknowledged that communication with the artisanal sector has not been as consistent as desired. One means of tackling that issue has been the introduction of a Circle for the Artisanal Sector. Interested participants would act as intermediaries to enhance the flow of information out and allow for questions, issues, suggestive initiatives to make their way up to Matthew and Jane. The latter can then reach out to artisans, etc., for one-on-one discussions. If you are interested in participating, send an email to Jane Underhill at email@example.com.