Elizabeth Kneafsey seemed set for a career in the arts after studying theatre at Nottingham Trent University. Nowadays though, you’ll find her in the fields of Burton Joyce with her 70 sheep.
Despite not being born into agriculture, it was a conservation course in Brackenhurst, as well as the birth of her son, that set Elizabeth on the path to her dream career- shepherdess.
She does everything on her own, including shearing and herding, with the help of her sheepdog, whose puppy she plans to train into a future sheepdog successor.
Her flock are a breed of a primitive Icelandic sheep, known for their hardiness in tough conditions and their thick wool. It is this wool that Elizabeth sells on her online shop Wild Wool. She turns it into yarn and wool, as well as shearling rugs and skins.
Aside from running her business, she’s a contract shepherdess and works on many different farms across the country, as well as in wolf conservation.
Wild Wools main priority seems to be sustainability, with Elizabeth arguing that wool is being underused, as many farmers simply burn it, despite being a very eco-friendly product. Many organisations such as the International Wool Textile Organization claim the long life and recycle-ability of wool make it a good alternative to less sustainable fabric.
“I believe we should go back really, back in time.”
Even wool can be harmful for the environment however, when mass produced by farms. Elizabeth said “By having these mass farms and mass production we are destroying so many habitats in the country side.
“It’s just artificial produce, mass produced. I believe we should go back really, back in time.”
She wants to see more people thinking about humanity’s impact on the planet.
“We’ve lost so much of a connection with the land, as a human race. We don’t really understand it, we don’t nurture it, we don’t protect it. All we do is take from it.
“All I’m trying to do really, is put something back.”
To see Elizabeth in action, check out the video below:
As a woman in what is very much a man’s world, World Bank Group statistics showed that only 26% of agricultural workers in the world are women, Elizabeth hopes to demonstrate with her independent business that anyone can return to the rural.
It just takes a lot of hard work, and a whole lot of mud.