Jacob Valentine, a fifth-generation sheep shearer from Crabtree Ore., sells the fleeces almost as fast as they come off the animals.
He does it by shearing live online as prospective wool buyers watch, bid and buy.
With a cell phone for a camera and Facebook for a platform, Valentine is able to show the potential customer the animal in full fleece, the wool as it comes off and a close-up of the fleece as it is skirted.
The bidding goes quickly — if you snooze, you lose because it’s on to the next shearing. At least half of the online auction customers live in the Midwest and East Coast.
Born in Gold Beach on the Oregon Coast and raised in the tiny town of Langlois, Valentine learned to shear from his family members. His natural ability to think outside the box was evident in high school when he gutted a school bus, added lights and held a dance in it. It’s not a surprise to those who know him hear that he is shearing and auctioning fleeces live online.
“I started live on Facebook with a group of approximately 3,000 fleece lovers and the sales started pouring in,” Valentine said. “When a grower decides to participate in the auction, I cut them a check for more than market price for the wool and keep the auction receipts to cover the cost of my crew.”
Valentine, who shears throughout the Pacific Northwest, works out of his three shearing trailers and sometimes brings along his wool press when he shears close to home.
“I may shear one weekend on Whidbey Island, Washington, and the next in Willows, California, and when that’s the case I use the customers’ facilities,” Valentine said. “I try to shear my customers’ sheep as if they were my own and I know that animals that have injuries aren’t productive.”
When asked about the name of his business, Darkside Shearing, Valentine laughed and admitted that he was known among his fellow shearers for being hard to please when things didn’t live up to his standards.
“I heard that one of my buddies commented when they were coming to the valley to help me shear that they were going to the dark side and it stuck,” Valentine said. “I’m a Pink Floyd fan so I decided to run with the ‘Darkside of the Moon’ theme and it worked.”