In August, 2018, I applied for and received a Small Scale Farm Grant from Kentucky State University. My goal is to be able to increase income on our small (50 acre) Kentucky farm. We are not farmers per se; we sort of came backward into livestock farming from the Thoroughbred industry in 2008. We had decided to become a bit more self-sufficient when it came to our food and other necessities, so we began small with the addition of two dairy does to provide us with milk, cheese, soap and lotion. A bottle heifer from a neighboring farmer began our ‘herd,’ and in the fall of 2012 we added a small flock of 12 ewes. The sheep were acquired from Kathy Meyer, who agreed to be our mentor. Mentorship grew into friendship and a business partnership as well, and Kathy was a guiding force behind my applying for the KSSF grant.
Because stipulations for this grant require me to clearly define my goals for this project, and it is understood that this project should be a benefit and blessing to others wishing to travel their own small scale farming path, I had decided that the best way to document and share what I learn throughout this experience is in a blog/picture format shared on our farm website and via social media pages. To that end…
It is July 27th, and my SSFG application has been completed and submitted. So now I wait.
Per my grant proposal, the focus of my project will be an exploration of ways to add value to the fiber from my small (14 ewes at present) flock of sheep. We began shepherding with Texels and Polypays, and crosses of those two breeds, with a little Dorset thrown in here and there. Our original flock was stock bought from Kathy Meyer in Paris, Kentucky. These breeds are considered dual-purpose, but fast growth and heavy carcass weight is where they excel, making them most profitable as meat producers.
My personal philosophy is that if something must die to feed me, I want every last bit of it to count. “Waste not, want not” my mama always said, and that is an adage I’ve lived by for years. It just seems like the right thing to do.
It was in that spirit that we made the decision a few years ago to begin infusing our flock with some wool breed blood. Enter Rambo, a Cotswold/Border Leicester sweetheart of a guy acquired from a farm in upstate New York.
Robin Nistock, Rambo’s breeder, is notable in hand-spinning and fiber artist circles for producing sheep who produce phenomenal fleece. Almost immediately, our ram purchase began paying off as Rambo’s fleece won grand champion at the Kentucky Sheep and Fiber Festival and sold very well in its ‘raw’ state. And this despite the fact that he was shorn that year by myself and my husband (NOT professionally) and when we were done, he pretty much looked as if he has been run over by a lawnmower!
Two years later, we added another wool ram, procured from Hannah Nilsson of Windsor Wool Farm in southern Kentucky. Han is a total love-bug and stellar addition to the LMF team. Rambo and Han’s resulting offspring have now become excellent producers of both lambs and wool, so we are counting the decision to walk (or trip and stumble) down the fiber production road a good one.