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9 of the most unusual farms

By: Josh Lew on April 26, 2017, 8:21 a.m.
The caterpillars that spin silk thread come from the silk moth.

Photo: ANTON NAGY/Shutterstock

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Silk farming

Sericulture, the practice of raising silkworms, has been around for several thousand years. It began in China more than three millennia ago and eventually spread through Asia and into Europe. Always highly prized, silk is still a pricey textile today. Sericulture, therefore, remains a profitable endeavor, even for small-scale farmers who raise the larvae and spin the threads as a kind of cottage industry.

One silk moth lays about 500 eggs during its brief adult life. After hatching, the larvae are fattened with mulberry leaves. Eventually they spin cocoons on twigs provided by the farmer. When they are completed, these cocoons are soaked in hot water to loosen the threads, which can reach nearly 500-1,000 yards (from a single cocoon) when unraveled. This raw material is then spun together with others to make finished silk thread. Silk is still valued today despite the manufacturing of other synthetic and semi-synthetic textiles. It is true that there are many successful smaller operations in China and India, where most silk is produced, but people harboring dreams of sericulture success should realize that the process of refining the silk is very labor intensive.