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Ask the Shepherd~Starting Your Own Sheep Farm

Welcome to the first official post in my “Ask the Shepherd” monthly feature. The best place to start in most things is at the beginning, so my first post is dedicated to those who work full time jobs, but dream of owning their own fiber farm one day. It can be difficult to know where to begin. Here is an excerpt from a woman who is longing to start her own fiber farm with her husband.

…At the moment we are just starting out. Learning all we can and try to connect with this amazing fiber community… I’m reaching out to you for advice or any words of wisdom. We still both work full time desk jobs and are trying to make this farm happen on our “free” time. I love your farm and the concept of your farm stay! Me and my husband strongly believe in educating people on where their products come from and the process it takes to become a product. We will take any advice you have to give. I look forward to hearing from you….
Visitors to the Farm
Visitors to the Farm Learn About Shepherding
For those just starting out, here are some tips I recommend:
  1. Read…Read…Read. I read just about every book I could find on raising sheep. Living with Sheep by Chuck Wooster, provides light entertaining reading, and a general overview of shepherding.
  2. Visit local sheep farms. We visited just about every farm that would allow us to come. During our visits, we would ask a million questions about sheep management, fencing, housing, and animal husbandry. The information we gained from seeing many different farms, and different management systems was invaluable. Each breed of sheep has its own characteristics and by visiting different farms, you will quickly learn which breeds you like and which you do not like.
  3. Attend local sheep and wool festivals. Many festivals offer free workshops on animal husbandry, fencing, and border collie training. There you will connect with the amazing fiber community from knitters to spinners to farmers. Knitter’s Review has an extensive events calendar where you can find festivals in your area.
  4.  Look for local mentors. In Vermont, I have been so fortunate to be surrounded by many like-minded people. Through the years, I have had wonderful mentors like Jennifer at Fat Rooster Farm, and Kat Smith at Stonesthrow Farm.  These two women have talked me through countless situations at all hours of the day and night.
  5.  Learn about the many different breeds of sheep before you make your purchase. Each breed of sheep has its own characteristics, personalities, and benefits.  By visiting  different sheep farms, you will quickly learn which breeds you like and which you do not like. I also recommend the following books which talk about the many breeds of sheep:Shepherding Resources

6. Listen to the weekly podcast at Woolful as other people share their fiber journey and become connected to the wonderful community of shepherds, designers, and fiber enthusiasts across the globe.

7. Take a Farmstay vacation to a sheep farm and experience life first hand on a working farm. At VT Grand View Farm, as with many other farms across the United States, we welcome farmstay guests to join us in caring for our sheep.

Please keep in touch as you begin your own journey into shepherding.

As always…..

Keep In Mind: I am not a vet, and I am not a sheep expert. My advice will reflect my personal experiences raising sheep on a sustainable family farm. I advise people to develop a relationship with their local vet, seek advice from multiple sources (vet, mentors, and books), and then follow what makes sense for your situation.

Where to send your questions: You may send your questions to me via a blog post comment, or email me at info@grandviewfarmvt.net.

 

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