In this full-length Under the Big Sky story, John and Evan Helle share their strategies for keeping a family business going and what they each brought back to add value to the wool they raise and ultimately the Ranch they love.
Duckworth is one of the world’s only source-verified, single-origin, merino wool apparel company. The wool is raised and shorn on the Helle ranch outside Dillon, MT as well as certified Duckworth Wool cooperative growers.
The Montana-raised sheep spend the long, cold winter months on the Helle family ranch which hugs the boundaries of the Beaverhead-Deer Lodge National forest. Their open-range Montana merino sheep live between 5,000 and 9,500-feet elevation. The specific conditions of the Northern Rockies result in a rare wool, a soft durable fiber with exceptional loft and breathability.
When the sheep move to higher elevations they are cared for by Peruvian shepherds, border collies and guard dogs. This allows the herds to adopt more natural movement and grazing patterns reducing stress and contributing to wool quality.
In Spring, starting at the ranch, the Duckworth team begin the process of sorting the wool for a specific end use, with yarn spinning, knitting, dyeing and finishing carefully managed on site by Duckworth’s technical team. This reduces their environmental footprint from sheep to shelf. Focusing on single-origin wool from their Helle Rambouillet merino is a top priority as more and more wool ships around the world several times before you wear it. This emphasis on locally grown wool sets Duckworth apart in the industry.
Wool made in the country of origin, the United States, creates value-added product for Duckworth’s local economies. Keeping wool science and knowledge at home inspires technical breakthroughs and innovation at every level of the process, building a vibrant and globally competitive textile industry for the long term. This sheep-to-shelf process all begins with a rancher’s stewardship of the land and livestock.
At Duckworth, knowing and using what’s in your own backyard is what really counts. Trust, quality, and comfort are paramount, assured by the pedigree of our wool supply, controlled at every stage of handling. Resurrecting the lost art and craft of American wool is our mission.
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