It feels surreal to be writing this, but I have a piece of Very Good News to share! In February, my housemate Helaina helped me make a video to apply for the Victoria’s Secret PINK GRL PWR Project. Focused on women’s empowerment, education, and sustainability, they are giving an award of $25,000 to 10 different young women with awesome projects to fund.
This past week, I found out that I WON. This is shocking and incredible for many reasons, but mostly I think it’s important and amazing that they picked a project that is explicitly by and for rural women. As a young woman farmer, I care very much about our countryside and what happens to our neighborhood/ county/ state in the next fifty (million) years. I care about what happens to the land. I care about who has access to land, and what farming can do for our communities, our carbon footprints, and more. The fact that PINK GRL PWR Project picked me says that other people care too, and what I’m doing is on the right track. This stuff matters, especially now that we are in the COVID-19 pandemic, and the long term food supply is in question.
So I wanted to share a bit about what I am planning to use the money for.
I applied to this project to help pay for the upfront costs of expanding our livestock business, to use my platform to champion young women farmers, and share my experiences in the hopes that this makes this journey into agriculture more achievable and inspiring to other young women, especially rural girls.
We currently have about 40 adult sheep on our farm, and are midway through our lambing season– which means that we are caring for our sheep as they give birth to their lambs for the year. We currently have 47 lambs, and about 2/3 of the way done, with the rest of the ewes due to lamb in April.
We rotationally graze and finish our lambs on our farm, which means they live their whole lives on our farm, from birth until we bring them to our local butcher in the fall. We sell the meat directly to our customers, many of whom are also our vegetable customers. This means our sheep live their best lives on our farm, constantly moving to fresh grass, and the meat we produce is all a part of our local food economy, feeding families we know, and the money spent on food remains in our local community.
Rotational grazing is a method of grazing that is better for the land, and the animals– especially ruminants. Instead of just turning our animals out onto pasture and letting them devour what they like first, we move them in smaller sections, using electric fencing, to give the rest of the pasture more time to grow. This is good for the pasture and also good for the sheep, keeping them moving and eating fresh grass and keeping their digestive systems healthy.
This is an awesome system, and we are really excited to continue growing our rotational grazing and finishing operation. However, in order to grow, we need to improve our infrastructure. Last year we finished and sold 22 lambs– this year, we will likely have over 60. This means we need more fencing, more access to grazing land, better systems to provide water, mineral, and supplemental feed while they are grazing further away, and honestly, more herding/guard dogs.
This is a direction we are so excited to move in– and I especially am, as it gives me more responsibility and leadership on a very collaborative farm– and with the money from the PINK GRL PWR Project, I will be able to fund these growth expenses loan-free.
It matters to me to grow a business that is sustainable both financially and ecologically, and especially in our current world, sustainable practices do not come without a cost. The way raising livestock works is that you get paid at the end, for the finished product, and have to figure out how to pay all the expenses yourself. I am so thankful for this opportunity from VS PINK to grow my business, the land, and our livelihood.