After two consecutive years of drought, Peter Hagerty, a sheep farmer in Kezar Falls, Maine, was already in a deep funk when ABC aired The Day After in 1983. The grisly TV fable of nuclear holocaust quickly transformed his depression into despair. “I really believed the whole sky would turn orange one day,” Hagerty says. “I asked myself, ‘What’s the point of all this? Why am I here on this tractor?’ ”
As the emotional fallout cleared in the months that followed, Hagerty hatched an idea for a small but ambitious business venture that might also promote world peace, if only a little. He sold some of his farm equipment to finance a trip to Moscow, where he arranged to purchase Russian wool to be blended equally with American wool in a Rhode Island mill. Now Hagerty, 41, and his wife, Marty Tracy, 35, are doing a brisk mail-order trade in “Peace Fleece” kits. For $15 per kit, customers get a variety of knitting patterns plus wool available in Soyuz-Apollo blue, Elbe blue, Samantha-Katya pink, People-to-People plum, Negotiation gray and Antarctica white.
Working for peace, albeit in an eccentric fashion, has preoccupied Hagerty most of his life. The son of a successful Massachusetts businessman, he joined both the radical Students for a Democratic Society and the Navy ROTC while at Harvard in the late ’60s. “I thought there should be a place in the military for officers of conscience,” he explains. But after receiving a commission and diploma in 1968, Hagerty filed for conscientious objector status when ordered to sail to Vietnam. “I was given an honorable discharge,” he says. “But my replacement was killed in Vietnam. I felt very, very guilty.”
In 1973 Hagerty bought his two-acre farm and the next year married Marty in the barn. “We wrote the music and I played the banjo,” Hagerty says. He keeps his 250 sheep unattended on Richmond Island, 300 acres at low tide and half a mile out to sea. Meanwhile he and Marty operate Peace Fleece out of the barn, where a map of Moscow is tacked to one wall and Soviet Life magazines are stacked nearby. In the future Hagerty hopes to conduct seminars for others who want to do business with the Soviets. “I’m a capitalist,” he insists. “I believe capitalism and socialism ought to coexist.”