Q&A: Fiber farmer and weaver Melissa Todd talks ‘Around the Farm Table Celebrates Small Farms’
November 27, 2023 Leave a Comment
In the all-new special premiering 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 7, host Inga Witscher takes a journey around the state to visit farmers and producers who are finding new ways to preserve traditional agricultural practices. Along the way she meets with a sheep farmer, a maple syrup producer, a beekeeper, and several small family farms before hosting a community celebration on her own farm.
One of those individuals is Melissa Todd, owner of Wool & Feather Farm. Located just outside Colfax, Wool & Feather Farm is a fiber farm and home to 25 Shetland and Scottish Blackface sheep. Todd is not just an owner, but a farmer and weaver who uses yarn from the fiber grown on her farm to make hand woven goods and finished fiber products.
Ahead of the premiere, PBS Wisconsin spoke with Todd about her sheep and what it was like welcoming the PBS Wisconsin film crew to her farm.
What does keeping your farm small allow you to do?
I like to keep it just under 30 sheep. We have to stay small because we have a smaller farm, and we’re not just raising the sheep, we’re managing the land so I want to make sure that we’re not overgrazing and make sure that our pastures regenerate. That’s part of being small. I like a smaller flock because you really get to know your animals. I have a better idea of each of their personalities. And I think staying small also allows me to still connect to customers a little bit more easily by talking to people at farmers’ markets and things like that.
How do you connect with consumers?
The majority of my sales are in person at different markets, farmers’ markets and holiday markets. I do have a website for people who want to buy something online but most of my sales are in person. I think people like to hear from me a little bit more about the sheep and the story of our farm, and they connect with the product a little bit more.
Tell me how you came to be on the Around the Farm Table special.
I met Inga and her dad at a market at Wheatfield Hill Organics and they’ll also be featured on that special. I met them there and we just started chatting and talking about wool, talking about sheep and then I continued to see her from market to market and she thought it’d be a good idea to feature our farm.
What was it like to have the PBS Wisconsin film crew around?
The crew told me they’ve filmed lots of different farms but this was the first time they had ever worked with sheep, so I think they learned a lot about how different sheep are from cows and goats. I did not have a clue of what goes into making a TV show so that was amazing to me — all the little parts and how much time goes into everything. It was so interesting. The whole film crew and producer seemed genuinely interested in what I’m doing. I really appreciated that, and had a good time and it really set me at ease.
How did your master sheep shearer feel about being on the show?
Every year I have to call him and book him for shearing, and this year I had a few more questions … by the way, do you know Around the Farm Table? He did and he was a big fan, so that was good. I said, “Okay, how do you feel about being filmed?” He was super excited, he was all for it and he could talk about sheep all day long. I think he was excited about that educational piece, too.
What do you hope viewers learn from your life as a local producer?
I’m just excited for people to see the whole process of a little fiber farm, starting with the sheep and seeing me weave, and of the mill. I think that’s interesting to show it. It’s one thing to talk about it at a market but to really see the process and how long it takes. I have this shawl for sale, but it really took an entire year to make this.
As a local producer, what impact do you think Around the Farm Table has on the local farm and producer movement?
Bringing more awareness, I think a lot of people, maybe they live in Colfax and they don’t know there’s a little sheep farm here. Maybe someone watching the show will wonder what’s in their area, what they could grow, see if there are any small farms that they can check out and support in their area.