By Meaghan T’ao
BU News Service
It’s Sunday morning on Feb. 10, at the Boston Public Market, and two sheep are grazing placidly on hay inside the building. Their names are Auggie and Pepper, and children are flocking to the edge of the pen and reaching out their tiny hands to hesitantly stroke their heads.
Tamara White is crouched at the corner of the pen. It’s clear that she’s used to dealing with both children and animals. She coaxes Auggie, the bigger of the two, over to the crowd.
“Scratch him under the chin like this, he loves it,” she suggests, demonstrating. White patiently explains that approaching most animals from over the top of their heads will overwhelm them. Auggie eyes the crowd of children warily, before approaching. He stands still and lolls his head in enjoyment when the children follow White’s lead.
The sheep pen was part of a booth at the Boston Farm & Fiber Festival, an annual one-day festival featuring local fiber farms and their products. The festival also included a knitting lounge, as well as spinning and weaving demonstrations. According to Genevieve Day, who founded the festival in 2018, the event has been a tremendous success since its inception and has received an “overwhelming” amount of vendor applications this year.
“Our fiber farmers are looking for venues where they can reach wider audiences,” she said. “I can confidently say that we had a lot more [attendees] this year than last year.”
Day also believes that recently, there is a heightened interest in purchasing sustainably and locally.
“We’re surrounded by other local farmers [here], so there’s already a movement to eat locally,” she said. “That sort of movement is making its way into the crafting world – people are wanting to know where the yarn that they’re using [is] coming from.”
Many vendors were from small farms around New England, including Wing and a Prayer Farm, home to Auggie and Pepper. White runs the 20 acre fiber farm in Southern Vermont, where she raises the animals, farms, and holds workshops about natural dyeing, shearing sheep, and canning.
“It’s an excellent opportunity to foster community,” she said. “Through farming, I am able to have these really meaningful relationships with everybody. I connect with the people I work with – I know everybody by name.”
White’s mission is to raise flocks sustainably and produce local and quality fibers, and to do so through education and outreach. “I believe in fixing the world for the better, one small farm at a time,” said White.
Although she hesitates to corroborate the huge success that Day has described, White is cautiously optimistic about the future of the planet and her part in it. “I think that the movement is not necessarily [in] full swing, but approaching,” she said. “We’re a long way from being able to reach everybody, but there is momentum.”