Traditionally, agriculture in Scott County, Virginia which lies in the southern Appalachians has consisted primarily of tobacco and beef cattle. Because the future of tobacco production is limited and cattle prices are not dependable, this producer recognized that new agricultural enterprises and products could help other farmers/ranchers in her area.
There are some farmers in Scott County who raise hair sheep and find that they are well suited to the area. They are hardy and don’t require shearing; a time consuming activity with little financial reward. Martha Mewbourne, in her producer grant, decided that to profitably raise and market hair sheep, more growers in her area needed to become involved. With more growers raising hair sheep, there would be a sufficient number of sheep in the area to make the location attractive for buyers to visit.
She conducted a one day Hair Sheep Faire to introduce other farmers to the alternative livestock venture of hair sheep. About 150 to 200 people attended the day of activities and demonstrations all of which related to hair sheep. There were workshops and demonstrations by growers, university experts and a veterinarian. And an excellent chef, Bill Smith, prepared many different excellent lamb dishes including grilled lamb kabobs and burgers, on site.
Martha still raises and sells beef cattle but finds that she makes more money by selling—with some direct marketing–lamb that she raises on her farm. She says hair sheep are easier to handle than cattle and that they are an excellent animal for a wider range of people to raise. With the financial returns from the lamb meat and the advantage of not having to shear, she is convinced that hair sheep are a good alternative for growers in her area.