Spiritwinds Farm

Farm in Chaffee, NY

Farm Facts

Type: Sheep

Years in operation: 14

Annual revenue: 10k-50k
(Average over last three years)

Overview

Spiritwinds Farm is located on 26 acres of land in a small town south of Buffalo, NY. The farm was once a 164 acre dairy farm but was sold off to a gravel company. The original owner retained only 8 acres which included the house, the barn, and a small pasture. When we bought the farm, the previous owner had acquired a 6 acre hayfield and the gravel bed had gone into bankruptcy. A development company outbid everyone for the gravel bed but fortunately, we were able to persuade them to sell us an additional 12 acres. We fell in love with this farm, primarily because of the barn that was built in 1919 (there is a 1919 license plate nailed under a batten on the back of the barn). The barn is three stories with hand hewn beams held by wooden pegs, a barn bridge that allows us to pull hay wagons up into the mow, and two tremendous cherry trees that shade the east end. The farm is run by two partners, Gwen and Nancy, who have filled the barn with 93 sheep, at present. Over the years we have purchased our own farm equipment and only hire help for shearing and a few extra hands for haying. We have built a fodder room, insulated by wool from our sheep, and grow fodder when needed to supplement our sheep’s diets. The farm is also home to five working Belgian Tervuren herding dogs and a handful of barn cats that have moved in over the years. The farm products include market lambs, herding, wool and education.

Inside the Farm

How is your approach to farming different than other farms in the same category?
Our approach to sheep farming is different by supplementing our sheep products with a herding component. We specialize in training “upstanding” dogs (not Border Collies), and their owners, to herd sheep. All the sheep have names, and some even have sponsors (this also adds a little to our income). We hold American Kennel Club and American Herding Breed Association herding trials as well as herding clinics and educational opportunities such as our “Low Stress Stock Handling Seminar” and “Discover Herding”. Our farm is also the site for small ruminant training for two Veterinary Technician programs, one in Buffalo and the other in Rochester. Students from these programs come to the farm to practice proper handling, physical exams, and husbandry practices such as hoof trimming, vaccinations, and deworming. Although we do not profit monetarily from this endeavor, we know that our contribution helps these students become better technicians. This year we are participating in a research project to determine the time needed for Ivermectin to pass through the digestive system of sheep.

How does your different approach contribute to a long-term profitable growth strategy for your farm and other small farms like yours?
Training dogs and sponsoring herding events has stabilized our income. Although, the lamb market has stayed fairly strong over the last 2-3 years, the wool market has not been good. Our income from herding has steadily risen and we have had to place some students on waiting lists to attend practices and training clinics. We are fairly unique in our approach and have learned that “thinking outside the box” and using the farm for other activities is a tactic that can increase the profitability of small farms.

How would you specifically use a Mortgage Lifter Lift or Mini Lift?
Our goal is to finish replacing the foundation of the barn. We have replaced approximately 2/3 but have not finished the back of the barn including where the barn bridge is located. It’s a big project and has a pretty steep price, but once that is completed, the barn should stand for another 100 years.

Please share why you are so passionate about your farm and/or farming in general.
Sharing our lives with animals is what we live for and sharing their secrets with others just seems the right thing to do. The impact of opening our farm to the college students and having them learn on a farm instead of a training center is difficult to measure. We have approximately 90-100 college students per year and exposing them to our farm raises awareness to rural American and the farming way of life. Training people and their dogs is also the right thing to do. It gives the people a chance to spend times with their dogs and learn about sheep/dog interactions. For the dogs, it is their instinctual release; this is what they were bred to do (we are told that the dogs start to get excited and bark when they are still a mile away from the farm). Our passion is to foster these interactions and to continue to learn from all who visit our farm, whether they are human, dog, or sheep.

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