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High demand for quality fleece requires shear excellence

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Spring is just around the corner and shepherds all across Minnesota are gearing up to shear their woolly flocks. And for some, today's shearing can lead to tomorrow's blue ribbon.

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Quality fleece is in such demand these days, that hand-spinners are searching the Internet and traveling long distances in search of the finest quality fleece.

They come from all across the five-state area to buy the award-winning fleeces offered at Shepherd's Harvest held each Mother's Day weekend in Lake Elmo.

The festival, now in its 11th year, holds the largest fleece competition in the state, displaying over a dozen breeds and sixteen categories. This is the best opportunity for local shepherds to get the recognition they deserve while presenting their wool and wool products to over 6,000 customers in just two days.

Fleeces are first grouped according to their breed and grade and then judged for overall size, length, crimp, consistency, cleanliness and micron count. A good, well-skirted fleece saves the hand-spinner time and money because there is more usable wool and it can therefore sell for a premium price.

A shearer can make or break the value of the fleece and with the ever-increasing demand for high-quality fleece, their unique skills are in high demand. Anyone currently looking for a reputable shearer can contact the MN Lamb and Wool Producers at www.mlwpa.org to request a list of shearers in Minnesota.

Shepherds interested in entering the fleece competition or customers looking for past winners can do so at www.shepherdsharvestfestival.org. With the current trend to buy local goods and produce, Shepherd's Harvest Festival is the perfect way for customers to meet their local shepherds and learn more about the variety of available local wool.

Festival goers can watch sheep shearing, see a dog-herding demonstration, shop over 90 fiber vendors or just enjoy the many breeds of sheep, goat, rabbit, llama and alpaca on display. Anyone considering launching their own sheep enterprise can take a shepherding class and even purchase animals at the festival.

The festival is held May 10-11. Hours are Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Admission and parking is free. Visit www.shepherdsharvestfestival.org for more info.

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