Pandemic project grows into 125 ewes
NEWBERN, Va. — A 4-H project that started as a way for a 12-year-old to get through the pandemic has grown to a flock of sheep and lambs being cared for by her family.
Carlie Hamblin talked about her sheep farming as she and her mother Courtney prepared bottles for lambs and grain for mommas in their sheep barn. Carlie’s father, Brandon, worked with sheep outside the barn and brother Carson, a lively 6-year-old, helped with the babies.
The 4-Her’s involvement with sheep began she visited a cousin who had a flock of sheep and was selling 15 ewes.
After some discussion, the Hamblins bought the ewes and a ram and the sheep project was underway.
That was in March 2020 as the nation was beginning the fight against COVID-19.
The family saw it as a quarantine project. As March 2021 draws near, the flock has grown 125 ewes. In mid-February, they had 160 new lambs and were expecting more.
Carlie has become a farmer through the project, her parents said. Working through USDA and the local Farm Service Agency she has gotten a $5,000 loan to start her own farming operation. These youth loans are designed to allow young individuals to start and operate income-producing projects of modest size in connection with 4-H, FFA or tribal youth groups.
They provide an opportunity for the young person to acquire experience and education in agriculture-related skills.
Courtney said the low-interest loan repayment is based each year on the level of success of the project that year.
Carlie is following in her mom’s footsteps as Courtney said she got one of the loans when she was a 4-Her. She bought cattle rather than sheep.
Carlie will be the fourth generation of Courtney’s family that established the Farris Farm in 1912 to farm.
The Farris Farm was a commercial dairy, known as Farris Brothers Dairy, milking cows, processing the milk and delivering it to area homes and stores. Sheep have long been part of the family as well, Courtney said.
Courtney said she and Brandon wanted their children to grow up having a farming experience. Both parents work off the farm. Courtney is employed at James Hardie, a manufacturing plant in Pulaski, Va., and Brandon is a career firefighter with the Pulaski Fire Department.
They added Courtney’s parents, Miller and Marie Farris, are also vital to the farm operation.
Rain, snow and an ice storm in recent weeks had all contributed to the muddy farmyard conditions.
“It’s hard being a lamb in the mud,” Carson said as the group passed ewes and lambs in pens outside the barn.
Inside the lambing barn, ewes and younger lambs awaited attention and their supper. First on the agenda was bottle feeding twin lambs that were beginning to wean.
As the family mixed formula and filled the bottles, the lambs helped themselves to grain in a bucket filled for the ewes.
Annie, part of a set of triplets born on Valentine’s Day, was the next to be fed.
The Hamblins they had decided to feed her on the bottle to help the ewe that was nursing the other two babies.
Carlie is a seventh-grade student at the newly opened Pulaski County Middle School.
Carson is a first grader at Dublin Elementary School. The school system had returned to some in-person learning the week of Feb. 15.
Carlie is a member of the Pulaski County Livestock Club. Her 4-H and farming activities have been recently featured in an Ag in the Classroom video. During the presentation, Carlie takes viewers through the steps she follows daily in caring for her sheep.
The coming weeks promise to be busy ones for this family that combines work and education in many different ways.