Well today was a very fun and exciting day for Morning Star Meadows Farm! Roy and I attended a one day workshop focused on raising and marketing sheep and goats run by Penn State University. Luckily we only had to drive about 40 minutes to the venue – a sheep farm that dates back to the late 50’s. While much of the material covered included things we already knew, we were able to network with people and get a feel for shepherding in southwestern PA. For example, we found out that the Amish will do a great job building our barn, and that killing weeds with a propane torch along the fence line could be a new, fun, and probably somewhat dangerous hobby for the boys!
The MOST exciting thing that we learned more about, though, is that this area just received what amounts to a $3.5 million dollar grant to help reclaim areas impacted by the coal industry into agriculture. With the work they have done thus far, they are realizing that there is a real need for more lamb in this area, and they would like to spend the next 3 years helping new shepherds get going with their farms to hopefully double the amount of lamb available, connecting consumers to farmers, farmers to farmers, farmers to slaughterhouses and meat cutters, and in the process, taking care not to flood the market and depress prices. This is coming at just the right time for us prior to our setting up our infrastructure here. It also helps confirm our decision to raise sheep again – but on a larger scale this time around!
Today was also fun because last evening this
toy tool was delivered to us,
and when we got home from the workshop, we were able to take a ride or 2 or 3 or 4 around the property!
Now we can get down to doing some serious work around the farm before the snow starts flying!
What a different perspective we had of the property as we buzzed around at the bottom of the hill out back!
The amount of pasture is truly awesome, and we can hardly wait to have it dotted with sheep! As for now it is regularly dotted with deer!!
Our next few weeks will be spent acquiring fencing materials from an excellent fencing company that just happens to have its roots and main headquarters about 20 minutes from here! That will save us a lot just on shipping charges alone! Roy has already planned out the fencing pattern, and soon enough he will be digging in posts and we will see what it is like to work with soil that isn’t full of rocks like back in North Stonington!
The first fence line will go around the homestead. That will keep Blue from wandering back down to the neighbors he already introduced himself to within a day of moving in! The next fence line will go around the perimeter of the property, which from our calculations will amount to about a mile of fencing! Once that is in place, we will run fences radially from the top to the bottom like spokes in a wheel. Those areas will then be further divided with temporary fencing to provide small grazing areas.
Our goal for our farm will be to intensively graze the sheep for short periods in small areas, moving them to new areas on a daily basis during the pasture’s growing season. This farming practice is referred to as mob grazing, and it is good for the animals as well as the pasture. Our lambs will be grass fed and finished, so pasture health will be of utmost importance to us.
We also plan to stockpile pasture, saving pasture for winter grazing vs. cutting it and storing it as hay. This will save us on haymaking equipment, and we will just buy enough hay to cover the coldest, snowiest months of the year only.
And so we begin the next chapter of our farming adventure! We hope you will enjoy keeping up with our story!