Genopalette McMurry Ranch
The McMurry Ranch is really two Ranches operated by the McMurry Family in Southwest Missouri. The McMurrys are raising some super breeding stock and their wool is actually their secondary product ... the proof of their bloodlines. Andy McMurry’s breeding stock has been sold to many ranches throughout the USA. Andy has also had interest from Italy and Canada, and a grower from New Zealand would love to introduce some of the Genopalette genetics to his ranch, but government regulations, both import and export, make this sort of thing difficult to impossible.
Andy and I have not met in person yet, but we have spoken on the phone and corresponded quite a bit.
Here is how Andy described Genopalette to me: “Luxury wool production in America's heartland since 1988. We specialize in an exclusive palette of undyed earth-tone colors grown by our natural colored Merino sheep."
I’m very intrigued by Andy's work with Naturally Colored Merino Sheep. Eventually I am pretty sure we’ll take a stab a making some garments from wool that is naturally colored ... this sounds really fantastic to me, although it introduces several complications to the processing ... specifically, many processors don't want colored fiber anywhere near their equipment, for fear of mixing colored with uncolored wool. But still ... how great would it be to make our Fabrics without any dye at all??!!
Genopalette stock's genetics are actually 100% Southern Hemisphere. Andy started with live imports from New Zealand and uses sires from New Zealand and Australia with some South African Merino influence. But -- very important to us -- Of course all of the wool we have purchased from Andy was grown here in America.
The sheep in the picture below may well have grown some of the fiber from which we have made garments!
All photos courtesy Andy McMurry.
GP Sheep in Cornfield
Every farmer is part scientist, part artist and part gambler. Andy McMurry is very much the scientist and the artist. Andy has helped me a lot with the content of this page, and he will be supplying more material. There is a tremendous amount of information we could present here ... much of it unclear to me and much of it new to me. As Andy put it, “I have quite a bit of technical wool information so it’s hard for me to know how much to present. It’s both science and art much like marksmanship, hunting, fishing and wilderness survival.” We will try to get a good balance of the science and the art here and on our Fabrics page.
Genopalette is unusual in that the fine fibers (small diameter fibers) we need for WeatherWool are not normally grown in as wet a climate as Southwest Missouri. Andy tells me his current rams test extremely well for CV, SD and CF ... as good as the very best in USA. These measures -- CV, SD and CF -- relate to the performance of the fiber when made into garments (the ability of the clothing to resist exposure to weather), and to the price commanded by the fleece when purchased from the grower. Andy views these characteristics as the real stand out difference in Genopalette’s fine wool production.
We will add information about CV, SD and CF as we continue to develop our website.
GP Natural Colored Merino Snow
This tremendous picture really gets to me. There sheep exhibit Genopalette’s Naturally Colored Fibers ... Naturally Colored Merino. Imagine these fantastic colors in a garment designed for beauty, natural camouflage and, of course, extreme performance in all kinds of weather.
GP Natural Colored Merino Sunup
I will admit to loving every hour of every day, but my favorite times for sure are sunrise and sunset!
Andy is very deliberate and scientific with his sheep AND with his land. This is quite interesting, and of course right in line with our love of the animals and the land. Here is 5-years progression of soil testing data on Andy's pasture:
Genopalette Soil Testing 2007
Genopalette Soil Testing 2009
Genopalette Soil Testing 2012
As Andy interpreted the test results:
“What animal grazing can do for soil health / productivity. Seen here is a 5 year progression of soil test results on the same field while I converted it from abandoned tobacco / crop and hay production to intensive "mob" grazing (sheep) of annuals. Since 08' the only inputs beside one lime application , and cover crop seed; 30 - 50 units of N applied to fall crop but only in the early years. One to three annual crops planted and "flash" grazed each year. The annuals bring soil minerals up from deep in the soil, sheep convert this to biologically charged super food aka manure and urine for the next crop of plants. The deep roots of the cover crop die and decompose bringing even more fertility into the equation and the soil aerated.
At this point the fields are totally organic and highly productive in a totally sustainable production cycle.
Animals grazing plants is the key to healthy and productive soils.
(Pardon my sloppiness when filling out the soil test submission forms and hence the inconsistencies in the field ID, I had no idea anything like this would happen in the field so I did not take the soil test form as seriously as I should have).”
Andy views the connection between the soil, the forage, the sheep and the rancher as “the symbiotic relationships between soil > animal > man! I see this style of farming like the "New Hunter Gatherer"”
Here is another great example of what Andy is doing ... comparing typical modern farming methods with Andy's style of using his flock to condition his soil and promote crop growth:
As Andy described these pictures (slightly edited):
Biological [pictured below] vs conventional [pictured above]. Seen here are two fields in the same creek bottom just across the gravel road from each other. On my side ... 30+ years pasture without any chemicals. On the other side, over 30 years of conventional crops -- corn and beans. I graze sheep so weeds don't concern me. The sheep love Palmer amaranth, for example. Anyway, both fields were planted on the same day 45 days earlier. Mine was strip-tilled / planted with rotovator and planted into Italian Rye Grass / clover pasture sod. So I had 10" tilled 10" untilled. I applied nothing but seed. The IRG and clover reseeded itself in the fall when I grazed off the summer annuals, which were 7 ' tall when I grazed them.
30 October 2016, updated 20 August 2017