March 31, 2023 Amy Bluhm
Elaine Made “Partner in a Small Farm”
In order to work, farm, be a full-time mom, have a volunteer life, and make our home life wonderful, something had to give. That’s why I recently transitioned my work to care for the sheep on our family farm, Great Lakes Lamb, LLC. Now I spend my days making sure our people and animals are well-fed. When I wake up, I feed our baby girl first and then my husband and I get breakfast. Finally, I head over to the farm to start feeding the sheep on our family farm where I am now officially a partner alongside my mom and dad. We’re all learning how to raise our sheep for new market opportunities.
We focus on selling meat either directly to individuals or to buyers through an auction barn (they typically operate independent meat counters, grocers, or restaurants), plus we sell animals to other farmers looking to grow their flocks. But recently we found a new market for our wool – a bonus harvest for us – through my dad. He has spent his career as a full-time sheep farmer and a shearer. Now, because of his passion for wool and his background as a shearer, we started selling wool for fiber that gets used in North Bay Fiber’s Heritage Collection. It’s incredibly exciting!
I thought it might be interesting to share some of the things we do to raise sheep with high-quality wool for this new opportunity:
- We make our own hay and straw, and bale it with natural fibers rather than plastic twine.
- We feed the sheep in a way that keeps their wool cleaner.
- We shear before our sheep have lambs. This way they do not have to split their energy between producing wool or milk for their babies, and it keeps their fibers clean and comfortable.
- We shear with the aim of keeping the wool in one piece, then separate the wool from the top of the head and the belly because the quality of these fibers is not as high.
From the initial shearing of the wool, it takes a year to clean it, spin it into yarn, and then hand-dye it. The wool used in the first run of this line was harvested in 2021. We are expecting to harvest again this spring before our next set of lambs is born. We are so excited about this partnership and the ability for others to see the passion we have as shepherds through our meat and wool products!
Get social with Elaine’s farm at https://www.facebook.com/greatlakeslamb.