Check out this Associated Press article about our farm and fiber from 2001.

By David A. Lieb
December 9, 2001
Andy McMurry considers himself an abstract artist, but his preferred medium isn't oil paints or sculpting clay- it's sheep.

McMurry has a flock of 400 sheep that he's bred for their naturally colorful wool, ranging from hues of brown, black and white to shiny grays and even hints of blue or red. The wool sheared from the sheep is spun into yarn and woven -- by McMurry's mother, Elzan McMurry -- into shawls, scarfs and throws. No dyes or bleaches are used, but the natural look of the wool makes the finished
product rich in color.

"The reason I got into these sheep is it's just like painting . . . . It's totally an expression," said Andy McMurry, who also does decorative home painting.
In an agricultural field where white wool is king and sheep are more often bred for their meat, a handful of farmers raise the animals for colorful wool.

The National Colored Wool Growers Association has fewer than 650 members, many of them hobbyists with just a few dozen sheep. According to the American Sheep Industry Association, there are about 66,000 sheep producers in the United States.

McMurry, 33, developed an interest in sheep at age 19 while participating in a Future Farmers of America exchange program in 1988 in New Zealand, a top sheep-producing nation.

When he returned home to the family farm, he arranged for a colored ram and six pregnant colored ewes to be placed on a ship carrying 2,000 otherwise white sheep headed from New Zealand to Canada. From there, McMurry brought the colored sheep to his farm near the Missouri River.

His sheep are of two breeds: Romneys, with longer than usual wool, and Merinos, with finer wool. From those first seven sheep, McMurry has mixed and matched their offspring, generating new colors and textures and strengthening the bloodlines of those that he finds most appealing.

He says their wool is cleaner than that of most sheep because of their unusual diets. McMurry feeds his sheep little or no hay or grain, instead shepherding them to native or specially planted grasses and weeds, even through the winter.
With the help of a state agricultural loan, McMurry bought a loom three years ago. Now his mother weaves the wool into garments in what once was a dairy cattle shed.

The McMurrys sell their products in local stores and over the Internet under the brand name Genopalette, for a palette of colors produced genetically.
After shearing a lamb in a demonstration for visitors one fall day, McMurry rolled a handful of the soft wool over and over in his palm -- a process that with soap and water can turn wool into felt. For McMurry, just feeling the wool is relaxing.

He explains how the sun has faded the warm coppery brown of the wool to a cooler grayish brown at the tips.That's what gives the wool its visual depth, he said. "I think it would make pretty yarn," said McMurry, envisioning a potential scarf. "The wool is so engaging tome. I just look at it, and it's, 'Wow!' "

Scarves woven by Elzan McMurry are sold in local stores and over the Internet.The hues of Andy McMurry's sheep range from brown, black and white to shiny grays and even tinges of blue or red.