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Kurth Valley Fiber Mill

By processing their own products, family farms across Wisconsin have embraced the concept of value-added agriculture. Producers are now selling cheese, jam, artisan meats and maple syrup through wholesalers and directly to consumers. Following this same trend, the Kurth Valley Fiber Mill began processing their own fiber and the fiber of other producers.

Lindsay Kurth has raised llamas and been involved in fiber arts for the past 15 years, but it wasn't until recently that she considered starting her own business. Working at a fiber mill in Mondovi, she identified a market opportunity when she saw that customers had to wait up to nine months to have their fiber processed.

When she made the decision to start her own fiber mill, the first step was to meet with Western Dairyland Business Development Specialist Julie Arnould. Western Dairyland staff members provide assistance with business plan writing, financial projections, setting up record keeping systems, establishing business legal structures and developing marketing plans. Additional services are offered depending on the type of business being considered.  

Together, Kurth and Arnould developed a business plan with financial projections, which was essential in securing a business loan to purchase the fiber mill equipment. With a loan just under $100,000, Kurth converted a brick chicken coop into her work space and installed eight large machines around the perimeter of the room. Fiber from goats, sheep, llamas, alpacas and Angora rabbits is now cleaned, combed and transformed into yarn, roving or felting. Kurth has 20 to 30 regular clients in Trempealeau County, along with customers in Minnesota, Colorado and Oregon.  

The fiber mill finances are kept separate from the rest of the farm and the goal is to make it self-sustaining. So far, it's been a success. "It's a lot of work, but I enjoy it," she said. "But if I don't pay my bills, it's not fun anymore. From the day we started, I've been making the payments on time." Working with Western Dairyland gave Kurth the tools and the confidence needed to move forward with her business.  

"I have some friends who opened and closed a business after less than a year, so we were nervous about this," she said. "Our goal is to live here and generate enough income off the farm to live our lives. I think we've made the right decision."

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