I first started working in the wool industry in the fellmongery of the Waitaki NZR plant in Picton New Zealand, where I spent 10 years learning the trade. Looking to return to the Pacific Northwest, I sent my resume to all the wool companies in the Portland Oregon area. In June of 1987 I was hired by the Columbia Wool Scouring Mill in Portland Oregon.
My first 18 months at Columbia Wool, I was apprenticed to John Witten who had been the head wool grader for many years. In the late 1980s early 1990s we were grading over 2 million pounds of grease wool per year. We were making 72 distinct grades of wool based on fiber diameter, length, strength, color, etc. In the mid 90s the ASI started the wool classing program. It was here that classers were taught to class the wool in the field prior to sending the wool to market. This seriously cut the need for each woolen mill to have its own grading floor.
With the downturn in the amount of time I spent grading, I took on the role of quality control. I became the expert for all raw wool used by Pendleton Woolen Mills. My responsibilities include inspecting all raw wool at the door before purchase and all scoured lots before use. Presently we buy and process 1.4 million pounds of wool from ranches and farmers of America annually, and over 1 million pounds of scoured wool from foreign sources. At any given time, we will have 6-800,00 of wool stored at Columbia. On average we ship around 165,00 pounds of wool per month to the main Pendleton plant in Washougal Washington.
So far I have over 42 years in the wool industry. I have had the pleasure of judging wool at the Clark County (Wa), Multnomah (Or), and Clackamas (Or) county fairs, the Evergreen State Fair, The Montana State Fair, and the Washington State Fair.