Dan and Alex Ash moved to a 30 acre plot of land south of Buffalo in 2018 with little farming experience, but big aspirations. We started out with a Guernsey cow, a goat, a few sheep, and a desire to feed ourselves and the people around us with quality, nutritious food. With a lot to learn, we tapped into as many resources as we could find; Facebook agriculture groups, The Family Cow forum, Sheep 101, books such as Managing Your Ewe and Her Newborn Lambs by Laura Lawson, Sheep Production Handbook by the American Sheep Industry Association, both of Adam Danforth’s books on butchering, and people such as the local large-animal vet, the local dairy farmers, Cornell University programs and online resources, McWilliams Shearing Supply, and so much more. We learned to utilize auctions and Craigslist to find affordable equipment, and made do with what we had when we couldn’t get the right tool for the job. We had a small amount of cash left over from the sale of our previous house that helped us get off the ground, and then Dan strategized to minimize further debt so we could get established without having to get extra jobs just to make our payments. We also kept our living expenses down to the bare minimum and postponed some important house projects in order to be able to get to the point of being able to pay our bills with farm income.
I can’t say we have gotten to where we want to be, but we no longer feel like we are drowning in the effort to learn and do at the same time. We have begun to see improvements in our sheep flock, our pastures, and most aspects of what we have been trying to do. Learning is still a priority; improving efficiency in all areas, utilizing better management practices, discovering higher quality feeds and feeding methods are all examples of areas we are currently focusing on for improvement.