Essay wins youth chance to work with Leicester Longwool
THURMONT, Md. — Over the years, Caroline Clark has seen many of her friends participate in a contest with a unique prize awarded at the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival.
This contest, run by the Youth Conservationist Program, is open to all who are interested in raising and preserving special breeds of sheep.
Winners get to experience raising and conserving heritage breeds of wool sheep that may not be common in certain areas of the United States.
The contest and program is made possible by breeders who are willing to mentor youth, donate a yearling ewe, and assist the youth with establishing their own flock.
This year, Clark entered the contest and won.
As part of the contest, youth are required to submit an essay outlining why they want to preserve a heritage sheep breed. Each year the breeds change and the youth can review what might be available before they decide to enter.
Clark said she became interested in the program several years ago, but waited to enter until the right breed came along — the Leicester Longwool.
She had already started her flock and this year, when Clark learned a Longwool ewe might be available and she decided to enter.
A few days before the start of the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival, Caroline received the phone call that her essay had been selected and she would be receiving a registered yearling Leicester Longwool ewe.
Her ewe came from Stillpoint Farm in Mt. Airy, Md., donated by Carol McConaughy. Carol and her husband Tom raise Leicester Longwool sheep and boards horses.
Clark bought her very first Leicester Longwool ewe from Carol and said she became attached to the breed instantly.
Leicester Longwools are very calm and excellent mothers.
They are also known for their beautiful fleeces, which are prized by hand spinners.
According to the Livestock Conservancy, the Leicester Longwool was highly prized in America, especially for its use in crossbreeding to improve “native” stock.
During the 1800s, however, the breed lost favor to the Merino and other fine wool breeds. After 1900, the breed fell into decline and was likely extinct in the United States during the 1930s or 1940s.
A very small population remained in Canada.
In 1990, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, a historic site in Virginia, re-established the breed in North America by importing sheep from Australia.
Several conservation flocks have now been established, and the population of Leicester Longwool sheep in North America is increasing.
This is important, given that the breed remains rare globally.
Caroline’s new ewe Bonnie has a beautiful white fleece.
Clark is no stranger to raising sheep.
At 12 years old, she has 14 ewes in her commercial flock and 4 Leicester Longwools. She is a 5-year member of the Rocky Ridge 4-H Club and the Frederick County Beef, Sheep & Swine Club.
Her projects include Market Lambs, Breeding Sheep, Sewing, Crafts, Cooking, and Field Crops.
She has been active in 4-H Fashion Revue, Skillathon, Livestock Judging, and Lead Line events across the local and state level.
Clark is a third-generation farmer, taking care of all the needs of her growing flock.
She gets up early in the morning prior to school and tends to them when she gets home from school.
Along with preserving a heritage breed, Clark also carries on the art of hand spinning.
She was bitten by the wool bug when she was taught how to process her own fleece into roving and then to yarn.
At first, she borrowed a spinning wheel from a local artisan, Patty Sanville of Jefferson, Md., who teaches local 4-H youth.
Clark said she spent a day with Sanville, learning about the wheel and how to spin properly.
A few months later Clark had made several skeins of her own cream colored 2-ply yarn.
Caroline has since participated in a spinning demonstration at Rose Hill Manor in Frederick, Md., educating the public on the versatility of wool.
Clark plans to take her flock of Leicester Longwools to several upcoming shows including The Great Frederick Fair, and The Maryland State Fair.
The YCP program is intended to open up opportunities for youth who are interested in preserving heritage sheep breeds.
For more information, contact Elaine Ashcraft at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1-800-634-5021 410-822-3965 Fax- 410-822-5068
P.O. Box 2026 Easton, MD 21601-8925