Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Sheep in Waterford, Vermont: A Preview and a Farmer's Talk

photo by Linda Kenney from United Kingdom (Baaaaa!) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
The Waterford (Vermont) Historical Society welcomes farmer Elizabeth Everts on Wednesday March 23 to talk about the history of sheep in our region. The Everts family owns Too Little Farm in Barnet, Vt., where they raise sheep, as well as market vegetables and fruit. The talk is at the Davies Memorial Library in Lower Waterford at 6:30 p.m. Please join us if you can!

As a preview, the sheep face here belongs to a Cotswold, one of the popular breeds in town in the 1880s. Here is a short general description of sheep in Vermont, from the Billings Farm website:
Vermont was a sheep state before it was a dairy state. Through much of the 19th century, sheep dominated the livestock interests here, outnumbering both cows and people. The first important breed in Vermont was the Merino, whose numbers exceeded 1.6 million by 1840. The Merino was known for producing fine wool and its desirability helped Vermont's woolen mill industry to prosper. By 1870, Vermont still had well over 500,000 sheep – and just under 200,000 cattle. As the demand for Merino wool declined however, Vermont's sheep population also declined and the conversion to dairy cattle was underway. Today, there are an estimated 25,000 sheep in Vermont.
     Frederick Billings began importing Southdown sheep from several of the best flocks in Britain during the 1870s – about the time that sheep farming started to decline in Vermont. He selected this breed for its excellent meat and wool - believing that introducing a dual-purpose breed might help slow the decline of sheep farming. Billings's flock of Southdowns quickly became one of the best in the state. By the early 20th century, there were several hundred sheep at Billings Farm.
Local Waterford details on sheep in Child's Gazetteer of 1887 show a dozen local farmers with sheep, most with 20 or 30 sheep, one with 50, and George C. Lawrence, co-owner with George G. Winslow, held 100 Cotswold sheep.

The Lawrence/Winslow farm was also known for Mr. Winslow's breeding and dealing with the Costwolds.

Now, aren't you curious to learn more? Come to the talk!

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