The University of Wyoming plans to create throw blankets with wool from Wyoming sheep to reinvest back into the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources sheep and wool program at the Laramie Research and Extension Center.
The throws are limited-edition and marked with a hand-stamped leather label specifying the quilt’s uniqueness. They will also include blockchain technology, created by the UW Center for Blockchain and Digital Innovations, that will feature a QR code linking buyers to the throw’s creation process and a non-fungible token — also known as an NFT — as a final stamp of authenticity.
“It’s kind of an added value for those folks that are really into the digital currencies and those kind of things,” said Whit Stewart, UW Extension sheep specialist.
The project was started by Stewart and supported by Laramie Research and Extension Center director Scott Lake and Barbara Rasco, the dean of the University of Wyoming’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
“Broadly speaking, with the state economic trouble and with the governor and our president of the university, we just wanted to get creative about how we could add a little bit more value and demonstrate through our flagship university that we’ve got a really great product that we can produce and manufacture here in Wyoming,” Stewart said.
Two hundred and seventy-five sheep underwent their annual haircut in January and produced 450-pound bales of wool that would be shipped and processed at Mountain Meadow Wool in Buffalo.
“We want to tell the story of the University of Wyoming being a land grant college that was originally founded on the premise of the Agricultural and Mechanical Arts,” Stewart said. “It’s since evolved into many fields of study and which are very valuable. But we wanted to get back to highlight the sheep flock that we have here on campus, has been used to answer a lot of good production questions for ranchers in the West. It’s been used to conduct research. It’s been used to train students that are going back to ranches in the West or even working in an allied industries, you know pharmaceuticals, feed companies that are really going back to the sheep industry.”
The throw was designed by Lindsay Stewart, a fine arts student who used the designated UW color palette with a steamboat design in the middle.
“It ties so many pieces together, and it’s really exciting,” Rasco said in a statement. “Each year, I would like to see our group make these blankets and provide a nice memento for our students, our stakeholders (and) our alumni.”
The proceeds from the project will aid an internship program for students in collaboration with Mountain Meadow Wool, where students will learn about different textiles and the agricultural industry. Going forward, Whit hopes students will utilize UW wool with other projects.
“We will send students up to Buffalo for the summer, Whit said. “They will be involved in the processing of this but also be involved in economic feasibility studies related to wool manufacturing and product development.”
The university has a long tradition spanning over 130 years of identifying and selecting sheep that produce high-quality wool. According to Whit, bales of wool typically supply the southeastern part of the country or are processed internationally, but this project comes full-circle in Wyoming.
“We’re just fortunate to be able to work with a lot of good people that care about the sheep and the land mammal industry,” Whit said.