Our work at Four Hills Farm is about animal care, land stewardship, relationships, and integrity. From these tenets flow a good life. A good life for our sheep and dogs and farms, and for our family, friends, customers, and fellow sheep farmers.
Years ago, when Jim, a produce farmer, moved to Central Kentucky, he was struck by the excellent forages that grow in the Bluegrass region. He started his flock with 25 Katahdin hair sheep in 2004. Lynn joined the operation in 2009. Since then, they and their five sons have grown the business into a network of 20 sheep farms that produce fresh lamb every week for retail customers in Kentucky, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
We raise our lamb on pasture, which makes sense given the abundant forage resources in the area. Before European settlement, Kentucky was kept as a hunting ground by Native Americans who understood that excellent grazing produced healthy flocks of elk, deer, and buffalo. Today we utilize those pastures, which grow out of the same limestone based soil that has produces excellent race horses for centuries. We use rotational grazing, mixed forages, and hay harvests to grow our sheep and maintain the productive Bluegrass soil.
Our main focus is on animal health. In fact, we are the first sheep farm in the United States to earn a Global Animal Partnership Step-Rating of 4. https://globalanimalpartnership.org/5-step-animal-welfare-rating-program/sheep-standards-application/ We do not add hormones to feed or use antibiotics on market lambs. They eat forages, some supplemental grain fed on pasture, and have access to water 100 percent of the time. They live on pasture year-round but have access to barns for shelter in bad weather and at lambing time.
On wintry days, they return to pasture and eat stock-piled forages. We check the whole flock every day in person and feed the livestock guardian dogs at the same time. We enjoy the sheep and the dogs for their natural abilities and good natures.
What we believe and practice: Sheep farming is our calling and to that end, we do what the health of the sheep demands. This can mean very long hours, repetitive tasks, years that resemble each other, few new experiences and often too many repeated difficult ones, but the bottom line is that we are in a symbiotic relationship with our sheep. We take care of them and give them a good life, a life perhaps better than some humans have: a natural environment that suits their needs, food, water, shelter, companionship, attention, and safety. We appreciate and understand this, even if they don’t.
This is an ancient profession. We feel a connection to the millions of shepherds on every continent who have offered thanks for their herds, who have seen the same constellations we see as we make our way home from the fields at night, who have understood the nuances of sheep calls and fought of predators through all the years that humans and sheep have shared lives.
We marvel at the centuries of careful breeding and selection past shepherds have contributed to the development of today’s specialized and well adapted sheep, herding dogs, and guardian dogs.
We believe in personal integrity and try to model that in all our dealings. We don’t make false claims or engage in practices that violate our values. We have been fortunate in finding farmers in our area who offer the same kind of good life to their flocks, who are hard-working and honest and cooperative. The finest people actually. Many have worked with us since the beginning of this enterprise and have grown their flocks as we have ours.
That first herd of 25 ewes is up to 400 and counting.
Our customers also have high standards for animal health and integrity. We are pleased to be a link in a healthy food chain.
The fact that our lamb is healthy matters to us, too.
Lamb is recommended for people who have cancer.
It has more of the good fat and less of the bad than beef does. According to the American Lamb Board, (http://www.americanlamb.com/lamb-101/nutrition/ ), here are some
LAMB NUTRITION FACTS
- Forty percent of the fat in lean cuts of lamb is monounsaturated, the same kind of fat found in olive oil.
- A 3-ounce serving of lamb provides nearly five times the essential omega-3 fatty acids and alpha linoleic acid of a 3-ounce serving of beef. Three ounces of lamb fits easily within the daily fat, saturated fat and cholesterol recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
- On average, 3-ounces of lamb fits easily within the daily fat, saturated fat and cholesterol recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
- On average, 3-ounce serving of lamb meets the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) definition for lean meat: fewer than 10 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, and 95 milligrams of cholesterol per 100 grams, or 3.5 ounces.
All in all, we attempt to work hard, honor the animals and the people who make this food cycle healthy and beneficial to all who participate in it.
Jim and Lynn