Nanney Kennedy ’82
This profile originally appeared in Bowdoin magazine, Vol. 72, No. 3, Spring 2001
People never do what they believe in. They just do
what's most convenient, and then they repent. -Bob Dylan
Ol' Mister Zimmerman obviously never bumped into Nanney Kennedy, a lively, tenacious Maine shepherdess who most emphatically lives her convictions. A native Mainer, Nanney grew up with a lucid appreciation for nature, its resources, and our human effect on it all. When it came time for her to choose a college, she wanted to stay close to home "without losing a connection to a bigger world."
"I've always enjoyed being a selfdirected learner," Nanney explains, "and Bowdoin gave me the freedom and support to do that." She concentrated largely on humanities, entering the College as a music major, finishing with art history, and was able to self-design a major in the sociology of art. "Since my roommate worked in the two subject areas of biology and applied art, it made for rich connections and lots of late night discourse and appreciation for what we are losing in our modern world."
Intellectual and inspired, armed with her Bowdoin degree, "of course I was going to swim upstream," she says, "and perhaps even in due course, make the slightest difference, at least, to that stream." With postgraduate work in agriculture and resource economics, Nanney has strived to remain consistent in an attempt to cling to "why our culture still wants to preserve our integrity as humans, even though it seems to defy economic thinking." Sheep fit easily into the model, she explains, because they manage nicely on minimal housing and yield several food and fiber products, "and, who can argue with a critter so soft and cuddly, easily handled, and keenly interested in nibbling an ear lobe? They haven't a hostile bone in their bodies." Interested in renewable growth cycles and arts and crafts, "and the honed ability to spin a late night yarn," it was natural, Nanney continues, "that I should become wrapped up in wool gathering and all its permutations."
To learn about sheep, the never-shy Ms. Kennedy hopped a boat to New Zealand and spent a year working on a sheep station, hiring on in wool sheds. "At the time, I had no idea how valuable the hands-on training would be-to actually feel all the different types of genetics, and also the animal responses to care and housing. I watched how the entire infrastructure worked, and even began to believe that parts of it could still work in a culture called New England, where we pride ourselves on our pastoral values."
On her Meadowcroft Farm, with her "two little boys who aren't so little anymore," Nanney produces "an array of products that have the capacity to capture some of the social change I keep harping on," she says. Along with organic meat and sheepskins, Nanney spins yarns of her own blends of wool and mohair dyed in vats she built for solar collection, selling the yarn and sweaters she makes under the name Seacolors.
With seemingly limitless energy, Nanney has also started another business, The Maine Blanket, incorporating wool from other Maine farms.
You can visit Meadowcroft Farm at www.getwool.com.