Sleeping in Harmony.

Harmony, Minn. — Forty years ago, Lloyd Peterson visited a neighbor’s auction and met his fate. “She showed me this mattress made of wool, which was over 100 years old.

”I ended up buying it, and put it out on our hammock outside. We abused that thing as much as we could, left it out in the rain and snow and used it the next year. It was great. After that I wanted to make wool mattresses myself.“

Peterson’s 40-year dream has awoken a new product for his company, High Pointe Coverings. High Pointe made some of its first wool mattresses in early September of last year and began selling them in December.

No comparison

High Pointe Coverings’ mattresses and pillows are made with wool from all over the United States, although the company would like more wool from Minnesota. Each mattress uses 34 to 35 pounds — seven layers of pure, carded wool that are 4 to 5 inches thick. ”There is no comparison to synthetic mattresses and pillows,” Peterson says. “Wool is an entity of its own.”

A sturdy material to sleep on, warm in winter and cool in summer, wool also has some proven health benefits, Peterson says. It eases back and neck aches, and soothes the effects of arthritis. “My wife has rheumatoid arthritis and she has to have a wool mattress. We won’t use anything but wool,” Peterson says.

Pricing is another story. Checking the current market, Peterson found retailers claiming to have wool mattresses only layered about two inches of wool on top of regular synthetic fabric mattresses, for which they charged much more than he expected. “One salesperson told me a mattress with just a couple inches of wool on top was $2,299. My mattresses are selling for about a fifth of that,” he says. “It’s amazing.”

Mattress tours

Sales have been encouraging. “We had a great Christmas,” Peterson says. “Business is picking up again since the holidays.” Trade shows also spur sales, and the company’s Web site is running with a built-in order form. Those interested can also tour the factory in Harmony. “We like that,” Peterson says with a smile. “We’re getting a group from Iowa who heard about us to come for a tour next week.”

Although wool mattresses are not new, “having them manufactured in Minnesota is unique. … We’re hoping this will be an opportunity to utilize more Minnesota wool,” says Lisa Gjersvik, AURI project director in Waseca. “Comparing the low value of raw wool and the premium price these mattresses sell for, the value added to the wool is considerable.”

AURI got involved when High Pointe needed to get the word out. “(AURI) helped with ideas on our brochure and Web site. The staff has given lots of support all the way with ideas and positive enthusiasm,” Peterson says. Dan Lemke, communications director, helped design marketing materials for trade shows.

Plans for a wool boot, wheelchair pads and quilts are in the works, and High Pointe would like to use “native wool” (Minnesota-grown) in the near future. Smaller travel-size mattresses are also an option for campers, travelers and truckers. “I want everyone to have a wool pillow or mattress,” says Peterson — who still has a piece of that 140-year old mattress in his camper.

For more information, contact Lloyd Peterson at (507) 886-2864 or 1-888-886-7696, or visit www.natureswool.com.