Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Notes from Shepherds Weekend

Mike and I recently attended the Shepherds Weekend that is hosted by the Michigan Sheep Breeders Assn.

We attended on Saturday, which was  packed full of sessions, along with a trade show. They also offer a youth program that the girls were able to attend.  They had a hands on session about parasites, which I am not sure they appreciated, even though it was informative. It's a girl thing! They did enjoy the second part of the program where they were able to tour Michigan State University's Sheep Program.

Mike took the more technical sessions about parasites, grazing, and raising replacement ewes while I went to sessions about "selling" the farm, managing small flocks, and using social media.

I really enjoyed the session "Selling the Farm"

It wasn't really "new" information, I had heard most of it before, but always nice to be reminded and to walk away knowing what I am doing well and what I need to improve on.
Some of the notes I took were on marketing and where and how we can market our farm products:
Farm Blogs
Sheep Associations
Etsy Shop
Fiber and Homesteading Groups
Homesteading Today
Fiber Guilds
Host Events

Other notes....
Determining what your products are worth, setting a price and sticking to it.
Educate! Tell people about your farm and products.
Know your products, example use your wool, eat lamb.
Offer consistency in the quality.

I also attended Social Media 202.

One of things I found interesting, was that a lot of  the people that were on the panel, got involved in social media to educate others about agriculture.
One of the women said she started her blog when she had an acquaintance tell her she thought it was wrong that she would kill a sheep to get its wool. What??
 She said it opened her eyes to how disconnected people can be to farm issues.
There were others who shared similar stories. I never really thought about that aspect of social media.
I agree with what was said. A lot of people are detached from where their food comes from and a lot of the other products they use every day. I have seen downright lies about how animals are raised or how products are made. I never thought to educate the masses! One farm does educational youtube videos about different farming practices. Others have websites selling their farm products and services. Overall it was an interesting discussion.

I also like that Mid States Wool Growers attend, and offer sheep supplies that we can purchase, that are not available locally. Always nice to be able to stock up on supplies.

Overall it was a great event!  It is nice to meet together with other  'sheep' people. I always learn something new and walk away with motivation to improve our sheep operation.

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  1. It sounds like a very fun and educational outing!

  2. I bet your family thoroughly enjoyed this Sandra -- always something new to learn. :)

  3. This sounds like such an informative event! And I love your photo of the kid. So sweet.

  4. You're going to think me nerdy (which I totally am) but a hands on session about parasites sounds fascinating! I bet the whole conference was interesting.

    1. Lisa, not all all. I would have found it interesting too, but not sure if I would have at 13 :)

  5. I'm glad you enjoyed the event! It is always nice to be around like minded people with similar interests.

  6. Yeah for you and your family, Sandra! Sounds like a wonderful opportunity and you learned a lot. I like that there was a youth component too.

    Sheep and parasites is an important topic. I know some producers who worm their ewes monthly.

    If you have sheep and intend to break into a niche or specialty market, I think social media is a big ticket. Last summer I helped my Sister at the Iowa Sheep Industry Annual Festival and I was amazed at the interest in the wool, fiber and spinning side of things.

    The misconceptions between the reality of what goes on in agriculture and what people think goes on are very different pictures. There is a whole community of bloggers that ag-vocate. It's important to debunk these false ideas.

    Thank You for sharing your experience.


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