Shetland Sheep: Rich in History, Rich in Textiles

Shetland Sheep: Rich in History, Rich in Textiles! Our farm mission is to enjoy and promote the wonderful diversity of the Shetland breed by fully utilizing to the best of our ability all they have to offer historically. We believe the best preservation and management of this breed includes it's full spectrum of history. We encourage old and new shepherds alike to join in the fun by engaging in fiber arts, especially spinning and knitting, as this breed is so intimately linked with those aspects of the arts.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Farm: Our blog and who reads it

A good blog is like good fruit, right Claire?

Writing for a blog is a challenging task.  Our audience, being vast and wide in scope, creates unique issues that are rarely ever a problem for writers in other mediums.  For example, newspapers tend to have long held (long developed) tendencies established by the publisher of days past, so that readers who live in that area and frequent a paper's pages have some idea of the underlying tone.  Magazines and special interest publications are directly targeted to their demographic, making writing a piece simplistic in tone.  If you connect with the audience with either the correct tendencies, style or tone, you will find writing for them a piece of cake.

With a blog, it's so much different!  Our farm blog is pretty clearly about sheep...Shetland sheep to be more precise.  We include posts about our fiber, spinning, yarn, needles, and sales, with occasional posts about the rest of the farm.   It is a hard task!  Our readers are so very diverse that it's a challenge to write for the correct market...the correct tendencies...the correct style or tone.  I fumble and stumble on this one all the time.  It's the hardest part to writing a farm blog. 

One large group of people who frequent my blog are easily the camp.  For those of you who follow our farm, you'll know that I define "the camp" as a collective group of people who's goal is to modernize the Shetland sheep while saying they are historians of the breed.  These are the people who claim our breed standard words of longish and wavy actually mean super crimpy, super short.  These people have collectively agreed to not put my blog on their blog rolls nor have they become visible followers, yet they visit our farm blog a lot!   These people come from states such as Indiana, Minnesota, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Oregon, and some states along the eastern seaboard of the US, as well as certain Canadian visitors. Cracks me up.  Writing for them is different than writing for the next group.  This first group most likes reading about things they can complain about.  They are fun to us for they have given us so much in farm identity, allowing us to become known throughout the world and prosper.  We have much to thank them for, even if they often eat a rather bitter apple off our blog when they read things that don't step in line with their own, more modern philosophies!  No apologies!  We love the genuine Shetland's soft, light yarns more than we love modern fleece types that are so common in the world today.  Compromising fleece quality is something we are not interested in right now.

The other large (much larger) group of people who frequent our farm blog are our customers.  Since we sell our yarns to mainly urban knitters, we love the connection we've grown to have with you!  You are appreciative of our hard work and dedication to our farm and sheep.  Writing for this group is equally fun, like the first group, except this group buys our yarns, loves our yarns and comes back for more...not only for themselves, but also for gifts they can be proud to give, gifts knitters find much joy in!  This group is a joy to write for.   Our blog posts for them might typically be about a question a customer might have had, or a wish to meet a sheep, or someone concerned with our loss of rights and freedoms to produce on a small farm.  Sometimes we revisit pictures or topics just for someone in this group, or post completed projects for all to see. The feedback we always get regarding these type of posts is gratitude and joy!  That is sweet fruit! 

Then, there are old friends and family.  That's a whole 'nother demographic!  Some of our family live close, others in other states, some are in other countries all the time, or just for a week or two.  Globe trotting adds a whole new spin on posting!  Some family are very, very urban.  Some live in high-stylin' areas, while others are in declining economies.  Such a mixture!  I fumble here, too!  There just is no way to write for such a diverse target without fumbling on some words or concepts!

Mentors follow us and watch us grow.  Fumble!

Other smaller demographic groups read our blog, too.  I always hope they find some fruit here...something to make them giggle just a bit, or think, or something.  I know our work on this blog has been 'borrowed' and ended up in the Black Sheep Newsletter  and other fibery publications, as well as our local sheep festival.  We have a history of inspiring people, of being a positive influence, of creating positive change in the  sheep community.  People use what they read here to help them find clarity in their own farm identities, goals and aspirations.  Our work on sheep conformation, fleece types, halter training, how to show Shetlands, and knowing your product by being experienced spinners and knitters has been profoundly influential, changing the way other farms advertise, sell, and interact with potential customers.  We see the changes one by one and know our blog has yielded a bumper crop of good fruit. 

However writing for the vast and broad scope of people and situations out there is bound to stir feelings in people.  Urban and rural people have different radars, different vocabularies and different reference points.  I've had the good fortune to sit on both sides of that fence, and I must say that urban people urgently need to support rural interests, and that rural people have been sending off alarms for quite some time, correctly so.  There is sweet fruit, bitter fruit, tasteless fruit, and fruit bursting with flavor.

When you write a farm blog, you don't have one demographic, one market, or one following.  A good blog shakes people into thinking, introduces them to new perspectives, builds friendships, commerce, activity and change.     Blogging about our farm, sheep, and resulting products has accomplished all of these objectives.  Our reputation has grown.  Our customers come back and bring their friends.  We are trusted.  We are profitable and sustainable despite the fact that we rarely sell livestock and we keep a low profile.  A good blog gets things growing...flowering...fruiting, or maybe you're just handing out seeds to chew on.  If you can accomplish this amidst the challenges of a jumbled, scrambled demographic, you'll indeed pass on good fruit, right Claire?


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