The history of WoodsEdge Wools Farm, since it’s inception in 1976, is a story intertwining textiles and a breeding vision.
The premise of the initial business plan was a vertically integrated farm, “from hoof to yarn”. Starting with sheep, Fred & Linda Walker quickly established themselves as leading breeders of long wool breeds. Bringing the first Romney sheep to New Jersey in 1976 and importing the first colored Coopworths into the U.S. in 1980, set the stage for their success. By 1984, the Walker’s hosted their first production sale with guest consignors, and set records which still stand today! Photos of blue-gened Coopworth rams the Walker’s bred over 20 years ago are still used by the breed association as examples of desirable phenotype. The hallmark of the long wool sheep breeds was luster, and it was also the defining trademark of Linda’s yarns.
Lustrous fiber highlighted the unique shades of the custom color palettes she did for designers. Fiber produced by the WoodsEdge herd, as well as all their customers, found its way to Madison Avenue. New York celebrities soon discovered the signature style of custom color palettes. Struggling to meet the demand, Walker doubled her prices. That strategy failed! The demand tripled.
By the mid-80’s, the Walkers saw the beginning of a consumer trend to eat less meat, coupled with more and more breeding stock prospects saying they wanted to raise some kind of livestock they didn’t have to eat, as a warning sign to heed! Amidst much skepticism from her second-generation farming husband, the first llamas arrived at WoodsEdge along with almost every other type of fiber producing livestock, as a natural extension of the luxury fiber blend yarns they had already successfully launched.
For the next 14 years, WoodsEdge built an extraordinarily successful bloodstock business around alpacas & llamas. During this time the decision to sell the yarn business was made and the total focus became breeding fiber for end-use. The new business plan focused on breeding for specific characteristics desirable for end-use as well as reproductive efficiency.
In 1995, the face of WoodsEdge changed forever with the death of Fred Walker. Although greatly missed, his natural born aptitude with animals, expertise in land management, and the accomplished skill set in everything from carpentry to mechanics required to keep a large farm running smoothly, were already passed to the next generation. With a business partner, the alpaca population grew to a top of 300 on the farm. The import days were at its peak and Linda traveled to Peru to personally select the right alpacas for her breeding program.