Suzanna Crampton & Zwartbles Ireland

Suzanna is a blanket-designing shepherd who lives and works on a small farm in the River Nore Valley in South County Kilkenny, Ireland.

Her first flock of sheep was conventional commercial stock. As she enlarged her flock, a farmer friend and neighbour pointed out that she couldn’t make much money with conventional sheep on such small acreage. He suggested that to earn adequate income from sheep farming a high end pedigreed or rare breed of sheep might work. In 2008 when the National Ploughing Championships came to County Kilkenny, Suzanna inspected sheep breeds to see what she might like to choose. All top end pedigreed breeds cost well above her cash bracket. But she met Ray Sweeny with his Zwartbles sheep.

She loves this rare breed of beautiful, elegant, chic sheep. They are strikingly black with sun bleached rich chocolate brown tips to their fleeces, a lovely white blaze down their faces and short white bobby socks.

She shears fleeces that are spun locally into yarn. They are woven to make three sizes of blankets. She also sells lambs for breeding and meat. The Zwartbles wool blankets are sold via her farm and website and shipped internationally. Social media has been her sole means of marketing and to spread news about what, where, why and how she raises sheep and produces blankets from their wool on her environmentally sustainable farm.

Three weeks after launch of the blankets, the Crafts Council of Ireland selected her Zwartbles Travel Rug for the 2013 London Design Festival. Three months later The President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins chose Zwartbles Ireland Travel Rugs as diplomatic gifts for his trip to South and Central America.

Suzanna often appears as a guest on local, national and international radio programs as far away as New Zealand, Australia and USA. RTE, BBC and Sky TV have interviewed her on many elements of farming from biodiversity to carbon sequestration, traceability of her products from wool to meat and about her book.

She appeared in the films ‘Minds of Makers’ about process of wool from sheep’s back to spun yarn. Also in ‘Small Green Fields’ that celebrates Irish food and farming, she presented her guests with lamb stew, sheep’s milk ice cream, sheep cheese and sheep’s milk for their tea and coffee. Subsequently the USA herb company Penzeys asked her to write a unique Irish lamb stew recipe.

Suzanna is a talented photographer, teaches photography and uses social media. She communicates with a broad variety of social media followers; wool lovers, teachers, veterinarians, scientists, writers, environmentalists, food specialists and farmers from over the world. Many of whom have now visited the farm in person. She is a founding member of Southeast Women in Farming Ireland and she advocates for women who farm. She also co-founded Regenerative Farming Ireland.

Suzanna wrote Bodacious: The Shepherd Cat. From the perspective of Bodacious the cat, this beautifully written memoir of his life on Black Sheep Farm and all that entails early mornings, frosty starts, beautiful sunrises, adventurous rare-breed Zwartbles sheep, hard work, entertaining animals, mouth-watering food, kind people and idyllic country living with its highs and lows.

Suzanna is…

a founding member of:

Irish Zwartbles Sheep Associations
Southeast Women in Farming Ireland
Regenerative Farming Ireland
Pasture for Life Irish Branch
Cladoir Sheep Preservation Society

and a member of:

Kilkenny Tourism

Career Timeline - Click To View

1981-82Sterling College degree, Vermont, USA
1982Breaking and training Morgan Horses, Kinderhook, NY, USA
1983Apprenticeship lambing in Wicklow and Carlow Ireland
1983-1984American Academy of Dramatic Arts, NYC, USA
1983-1988Acted, modelled, stage managed, bar tended, waited tables, hotel maid in NYC, USA & London, UK.
1989-1990lived on farm in USA
1990Returned to London UK
1991Worked at North London Veterinary Practice
1991-1993Helped found Wildlife Information Network (WIN) first based in London Zoo & subsequently moved to the Royal Veterinary College London.
1992-19932 Trips to South East Asia working for WIN
1993 OctoberRoyal Free Tropical Diseases Hospital
1993 -1996Bed Ridden with Tropical Illness
1992 - PresentExhibited photographs in USA, UK and Ireland
1997Returned to Ireland Permanently
1998 – 2013Taught Photography at Ormond College Kilkenny City and Grennan Mill Craft School Thomastown Co Kilkenny.
2008November bought first inlamb Zwartbles ewe and 3 ewe lambs
2011Opened website, Social Media platforms FaceBook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube
2011Three Bags Full Wool project; aimed to connect the rural and urban creative community. A three way partnership with Suzanna, Interreg and Kilkenny Arts Office
2011Introduced to Cushendale Woollen Mills
2012first 700 pounds of Zwartbles wool processed into yarn
2013Took part in Imen McDonnell’s food documentary ‘Small Green Fields’
2013Took part in ‘Minds of Makers’ documentary on wool processing
2013 JulyLaunched Zwartbles Travel rug and Bed Blankets
2013 AugustThe Zwartbles Travel Rug was selected to represent Irish Design at the London Design Festival
2013 OctoberThe Zwartbles Travel rug was selected by Irish President Micheal D. Higgins as the gift for his Central and South American diplomatic travels.
2016Appeared on RTE’s Farming Live
2016Appeared on Sky TV
2016Foundation of Southeast Women in Farming Ireland
2017Spoke to interns on Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farm, Shenandoagh Valley, Virgina, USA
2017Met with Wendell Berry on his farm in Kentucky. Spoke about his collaboration with Sterling College in Vermont.
2017Spoke to Rural Preservation Society of New Jersey USA
2017Attended Horse Progress for the first time in USA
2018Appeared on RTE’s NationWide
2018“Bodacious the Shepherd Cat” is published by Harper Collins with the aim of general education about farming with Nature.
2018Recipient into the National Hall of Fame Awards in the Ovine Category
2018Black Sheep Farm’s Zwartbles Ireland Blankets win the Irish Country Magazine Award for the best Irish-Made Textile
2019Read from “Bodacious the Shepherd Cat” at The Oxford Literary Festival
2019On The BBC World Service Program “The Food Chain, How to Tell a Food Story.”
2019Poshbee Pollenator Project – One of 126 Pan-European farms for assessment, monitoring and mitigation of stressors on the health of bees on 126 locations across Europe
2019Project Baa Baa - Read from Her book Bodacious to 250 Primary School Children in Loughnane Ardrahan, Co. Galway.
2019Roscommon Lamb Festival – took part in the public discussion about wool in Ireland
2019At Meatopia in Dublin spoke about sustainable regenerative farming practices and how this improves natural vitamin and mineral content and flavor of foods. A tweet cited Suzanna’s “A cutting room floor talk that will go down in Meatopia history.” @MeatopiaUK
2019“Bodacious the Shepherd Cat” is translated in French, German, Italian and Japanese.
2019A Farming for Nature for Farming Awards Ambasssdor
2020Covid hit
2020Started daily videos on Zwartbles Ireland youtube channel
2020Online talks via Zoom about regenerative farming with nature
2020Appeared on RTE Nationwide
2021Started working with artist Deirdre O’Mahony
2021Butler Gallery taught students about enviornmental farming with Deirdre O’Mahony
2021Gave a talk at local Kilkenny Collage followed by farm tour
2022Butler Gallery talks both on farm and in Gallery
2022Documentary Hash Tag Dogs - Inca

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