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 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.
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:
Career Timeline - Click To View
|Sterling College degree, Vermont, USA
|Breaking and training Morgan Horses, Kinderhook, NY, USA
|Apprenticeship lambing in Wicklow and Carlow Ireland
|American Academy of Dramatic Arts, NYC, USA
|Acted, modelled, stage managed, bar tended, waited tables, hotel maid in NYC, USA & London, UK.
|lived on farm in USA
|Returned to London UK
|Worked at North London Veterinary Practice
|Helped found Wildlife Information Network (WIN) first based in London Zoo & subsequently moved to the Royal Veterinary College London.
|2 Trips to South East Asia working for WIN
|Royal Free Tropical Diseases Hospital
|Bed Ridden with Tropical Illness
|1992 - Present
|Exhibited photographs in USA, UK and Ireland
|Returned to Ireland Permanently
|1998 – 2013
|Taught Photography at Ormond College Kilkenny City and Grennan Mill Craft School Thomastown Co Kilkenny.
|November bought first inlamb Zwartbles ewe and 3 ewe lambs
|Opened website, Social Media platforms FaceBook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube
|Three Bags Full Wool project; aimed to connect the rural and urban creative community. A three way partnership with Suzanna, Interreg and Kilkenny Arts Office
|Introduced to Cushendale Woollen Mills
|first 700 pounds of Zwartbles wool processed into yarn
|Took part in Imen McDonnell’s food documentary ‘Small Green Fields’
|Took part in ‘Minds of Makers’ documentary on wool processing
|Launched Zwartbles Travel rug and Bed Blankets
|The Zwartbles Travel Rug was selected to represent Irish Design at the London Design Festival
|The Zwartbles Travel rug was selected by Irish President Micheal D. Higgins as the gift for his Central and South American diplomatic travels.
|Appeared on RTE’s Farming Live
|Appeared on Sky TV
|Foundation of Southeast Women in Farming Ireland
|Spoke to interns on Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farm, Shenandoagh Valley, Virgina, USA
|Met with Wendell Berry on his farm in Kentucky. Spoke about his collaboration with Sterling College in Vermont.
|Spoke to Rural Preservation Society of New Jersey USA
|Attended Horse Progress for the first time in USA
|Appeared on RTE’s NationWide
|“Bodacious the Shepherd Cat” is published by Harper Collins with the aim of general education about farming with Nature.
|Recipient into the National Hall of Fame Awards in the Ovine Category
|Black Sheep Farm’s Zwartbles Ireland Blankets win the Irish Country Magazine Award for the best Irish-Made Textile
|Read from “Bodacious the Shepherd Cat” at The Oxford Literary Festival
|On The BBC World Service Program “The Food Chain, How to Tell a Food Story.” https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w3csz3hn
|Poshbee 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
|Project Baa Baa - Read from Her book Bodacious to 250 Primary School Children in Loughnane Ardrahan, Co. Galway.
|Roscommon Lamb Festival – took part in the public discussion about wool in Ireland
|At 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
|“Bodacious the Shepherd Cat” is translated in French, German, Italian and Japanese.
|A Farming for Nature for Farming Awards Ambasssdor
|Started daily videos on Zwartbles Ireland youtube channel
|Online talks via Zoom about regenerative farming with nature
|Appeared on RTE Nationwide
|Started working with artist Deirdre O’Mahony
|Butler Gallery taught students about enviornmental farming with Deirdre O’Mahony
|Gave a talk at local Kilkenny Collage followed by farm tour
|Butler Gallery talks both on farm and in Gallery
|Documentary Hash Tag Dogs - Inca