SALEM, Ore. — Sheep shearer Jacob Valentine auctions fleece online before it even leaves the barn.
Valentine, owner and operator of Darkside Shearing, has his staff video the event live while potential customers watch on Facebook. They see the animal in full fleece, the wool as it comes off and a close-up of the fleece as it is skirted. The bidding goes quickly.
Valentine is a fifth-generation shearer who lives in Crabtree, Ore.
The idea to auction fleeces during shearing came to him one afternoon.
“... I saw a couple of really nice fleeces get sacked in a commercial bale,” Valentine said. “That seemed like such a shame because I knew hand spinners would have loved to have them.”
He decided to do something about it, going live on a Facebook page he belonged to with approximately 3,000-member fleece-lovers. The sales started pouring in.
“When I shear, I give my customer a choice of keeping their wool or selling it to me,” he said. “When a grower decides to participate in the auction, I cut them a check for more than market price for the wool and keep the auction receipts to cover costs, including the cost of my crew.”
At least half of the online auction customers live in the Midwest and the East Coast.
Valentine shears throughout the Pacific Northwest, works out of his three shearing trailers and sometimes brings along his wool press when he shears close to home.
“I may shear one weekend on Whidbey Island, Washington, and the next in Willows, California, and when that’s the case I use the customer’s facilities,” Valentine said. “I try to shear my customer’s sheep as if they were my own and I know that animals that have injuries aren’t productive.”
When asked about the name Darkside Shearing, Valentine laughed and admitted that he was known among his fellow shearers for being hard to please when things didn’t live up to his standards.
“I heard that one of my buddies commented when they were coming to the valley to help me shear that they were going to the dark side, and it stuck,” Valentine said. “I’m a Pink Floyd fan so I decided to run with the Darkside of the Moon theme and it worked.”