Lambs weren't meant to fly. Find your local lamb producer.
Ryan and Romy Schill are 4th and 5th generation farmers. Read their story of starting their own family farming business raising lamb.
We are in the dead of winter. There are no longer farmers markets or farm stands at every other corner. You want to eat local and support local but it's not as easily accessible at this time of year? It's like the local food has stopped for the winter right? Wrong. Local may not be at the front of all of the stores right now, and you might not see Farmer John on his regular corner with his produce stand but he is still here. Your local farming community has a lot to offer all year round.
I was walking through a grocery store the other day. I always look at their meat section. I never buy anything (I am a beef farmer) but I am always curious to see what a big conglomerate grocery store has to offer. After I walked past the beef, then the chicken, then the pork, I came to the lamb. New Zealand!?! We have so many amazing lamb farms right here in Waterloo Region as well as right across Ontario and therefore even Canada. Why are we importing from another country? I had just had a conversation with one of our Foodlink Partners, Romy Schill, of Circle R Livestock about her lamb farm and business. After seeing this product in the grocery store it seemed like a perfect time to tell you a bit more about our local lamb farmers. Or at least one of them.
Circle R Livestock is located in Wallenstein, Ontario. If you haven't heard of Wallenstein before, it is a small town close outside of Elmira. Now if you love lamb you have a great excuse to go and visit! Romy was kind enough to take some time out of her busy schedule to tell you a bit more about their family business.
1) You are 4th and 5th generation farming family. What made you choose to raise lamb?
I grew up on a dairy farm and Ryan grew up on a mixed farm with beef, pigs and chickens. When we took over the farm we tried a few sheep. We like working with them and were able to use the skills we had learned from all the other species and put them to use. There is also a huge demand for lamb in Ontario. Since the barn needed renovations at that time we decided to make the jump to serious sheep farming. We're expanding again this year with building a new barn. Growing our flock will help us move towards both being home full-time and having our kids involved in the future.
2) You grow a number of crops on your farm. Are they all for making your animal feed or do you also have some cash crops?
Most of the crops are used to feed our animals. If we have extra, neighbours will use it to feed their animals. We do buy in extra protein (soybeans) and a vitamin and mineral supplement to help balance the rations. A nutritionist balances a specific diet for each group depending on their stage of production.
3) Consumers can find your products on your website and are able to place orders there. Are there any other locations consumers can find your product?
We can take lamb orders year round. Since we have lambs born year round you don't have to wait until Easter for our meat. Usually at the farm we do whole and custom cut lambs as well as half and quarter packages. For cuts we work with a local butcher shop, Parker Meats. Mosborough Farm Market in Guelph, offers our lamb and it can also be ordered through Bailey's Local Foods in Waterloo.
4) Along with your meat, you also have a few other products available for purchase correct?
Yes. Sheep are wonderful animals. Not only do they provide us with healthy and delicious meat, they also have wool. Wool is such a great fibre! It is hypoallergenic, renewable, biodegradable, it regulates temperatures as well as insulates. We have a variety of pure wool yarns, roving and batts for crafters, makers and fibre buffs. We also have sheep and lamb skins available for decor, sleeping or snuggling and they also make great gifts. We're also working with my dad, a bee keeper, to offer some honey and beeswax products. Some exciting new things are happening this year. We're looking to collaborate with retailers, makers and creators for our wool and yarns. I'm also planning to open an online store for our products.
5) What's been the most rewarding part of having your own business?
I guess the obvious answer is that I can be my own boss. But really it's more then that. The variety is most rewarding. I get to do something different every day. Some days we have new lambs born and crops planted. Another days those lambs and crops are grown and you get to celebrate those successes. We also sell breeding stock to other farmers so it's great to see them growing their farm business too. Other days aren't so fun and you have losses. But we learn from those too! Best of all, I can raise my kids on the farm.
So next time you feel like lamb chops, or a nice leg of lamb dinner, I encourage you to check out your local farmers. Don't forget you can use our map to help you locate local farms for you to check out.