Jessica Gray from Virginia is in receipt of the 2023 USA MidAtlantic Region Scholarship*, to evaluate the potential for a sheep-based economy in the USA.
Jessica operates Kitchen Sink Farm along with her husband and four children. They have a sheep flock rotationally grazed on solar fields as well as a variety of other livestock and a pick your own pumpkin patch during the fall season.
The State of Virginia is an area with very few sheep farmers, and over half of all lamb consumed is imported into the USA from other countries. Virginia has committed to 40,000+ acres of solar panels and sheep are an important part of managing the vegetation in these areas, yet sheep numbers remain very low. Jessica believes that sheep farming may provide some answers to the question of the aging demographic of farmers in the USA and the difficulty of young people entering the agricultural industry due to financial constraints.
"One cow can cost between USD $200 - $5000 but the average cost of a sheep is $350. Sheep are an important part of an agribusiness because they are cheaper to invest in early on and have less impact on the environment, so it is cheaper to get involved in, there is money to be made in both the grazing markets and the meat markets, we just need supporting research to back the movement."
Jessica intends to visit countries where sheep farming is well established such as Australia, New Zealand, Italy, and the United Kingdom. She hopes to study how sheep farming can thrive in a warming and drying climate, as well as vegetative structure, soil health, carbon sequestration, lamb market development and incentive programs in countries outside the USA.
* Investor sponsors include MidAtlantic Farm Credit, Horizon Farm Credit, Mountaire Farms, the Delaware Department of Agriculture, and Kee's Creek Farm*