ALBANY -- Brownsville farmers Joel and Kay Pynch have found a new use for excess wool.
Along with partner Margaret Magruder of Clatskanie, they have come up with an environmentally friendly wool product that is changing the way many people insulate their homes.
"We take wool that would otherwise end up in a landfill and turn it into home insulation," said Joel Pynch, who has been farming sheep, cattle and crops for over 40 years.
Oregon Shepherd Natural Wool Insulation is in its third year of producing the long-lasting product that the Pynches believe will be the way of the future.
"It is a very green product and that appeals to a lot of homeowners," Joel Pynch said.
Oregon Shepherd's 20,000-square-foot plant in Rainier processes wool that farmers or industries such as Pendleton Woolen Mills don't use.
Pynch said he is on the gathering end of things, collecting wool from farmers and adding it to the industrial wool for shipment. It is hauled to San Angelo, Texas, where it is washed and readied for processing.
Back in Oregon, the wool runs through a system developed by Pynch to ease flow and use less energy than is needed for manufacturing fiberglass insulation.
The raw wool is chopped and sprayed with a borate solution. Although wool is already naturally resistant to fire, Pynch said the solution makes it even more so and virtually rodent-proof.
It is packaged with insulation netting and shipped around the country.
Most sales are out of state. The insulation is popular in Minnesota, the Dakotas and along the Eastern Seaboard.
Pynch said overall sales aren't taking off just yet.
"It's a bit slow," he said. "The housing market has hurt us, but we're still in production."
When a housing turnaround comes, Oregon Shepherd's product may well be in demand.
The owners say its green properties will be a key factor.
"The wool is renewable, cleaner and insulates better for heat and cold. People wear wool for that same reason," said Pynch, who taught agriculture and industrial mechanics at Central Linn High School in Halsey for 27 years.
Pynch said the insulation costs a bit more than fiberglass but is expected to last the life of a building, making it economical in the long run.
"We believe it's a better product," Pynch said. "We think it will take off."