MAUPIN, Ore. (KGW) — Team USA will wear sweaters and hats made with Oregon wool during the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony on Sunday.
The Shaniko Wool Company outside the central Oregon town of Maupin, just south of The Dalles supplied the wool used for the Games in Beijing.
“It’s a brisk morning,” Jeanne Carver said while walking toward a flock of sheep on a cold and windy morning at the family’s ranch.
Carver runs the Shaniko Wool Company out of the family’s ranch, The Imperial Stock Ranch.
The sheep are part of the lifeblood that has kept her ranch running for more than 30 years since Carver and her late husband, Dan, bought the land in the late 1980s.
Before the turn of the century as other farms were closing down due to wool getting sourced overseas, Carver said Dan tasked her with finding a way to help the farm maintain sheep production. It was either sell the wool or sell the sheep.
“This place has always been about pioneering. We’re also adaptable, we’re also tenacious,” said Carver. “I didn’t know anything about fibers and knitting. I’m not real crafty. I sure did not want the sheep to leave here. I also did not like hearing that wool was not important, wool didn’t matter and we can’t make things in America anymore. That fired me up.”
That was the beginning of their wool journey when they took the product to the product stage and began to work with various brand partners.
“We select breeding stock that give us a good frame on a sheep, that give us a good quality. Open faces from health reasons. Not too much wool around the eyes or face or on the legs, just so they’re cleaner,” she said.
Not only did they survive, they thrived.
After fashion design company Ralph Lauren drew criticism for not using American raised wool in the Team USA sweaters at the 2012 Summer Olympics, they contacted the Carvers.
“Six months later, we got the production order to deliver the yarn for what would become the Opening Ceremony sweater in 2014 at the Sochi Olympics,” Carver said.
The company came back again to the Carvers for the 2018 PyeongChang Games and again for the 2022 Beijing Games.
“It’s still really unbelievable. I mean, because we just do what we do. We do what we’re called to do and we’re really removed from the world of design and fashion and apparel,” said Carver.
The wool in the 2022 sweaters is different than the previous two. It holds the Responsible Wool Standard (RWS) label, which is a strict standard based on how sheep are raised and cared for.
“The Imperial Stock Ranch became the first ranch in the world certified to the Responsible Wool Standard,” Carver said.
In 2018, the Imperial Stock Ranch formed the Shaniko Wool Company, a group comprised of seven family farms totaling more than a million acres of land.
“Every ranch in our farm group has been on their operations, their land with their sheep for more than 100 years. These are heritage ranching families,” she said. “Shaniko Wool Company is the farm group. We’re the only supplier of RWS certified wool in all of the U.S. and North America.”
This time as Carver watches the athletes walk during the Closing Ceremony, it will be bittersweet. Her husband, Dan, passed away in July 2021 and never had the chance to see the final product using the wool of the sheep he helped raise.
“There’s a piece of Dan in this sweater,” Carver said. “I only wish he’d been here to see them because they’re amazing.”
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