As part of my research for the upcoming 2017 Piedmont Farm Tour, I had the chance to preview a couple of farms and Stoney Mountain Farm was at the top of my list! Focused on raising and breeding sheep for wool and meat, I headed out to Burlington, NC to visit Olga and her flock!
Heading out on the peaceful and serenic Old Stoney Mountain Road, I find the farm which is a cluster of 3 or 4 small buildings. As I get out, I’m greeted by Stoney Mountain Farm’s owner, Olga Elder. Olga is a former Durham resident who transitioned into farm life and escaped the business world, a bit later as an adult. As we introduce ourselves and chat, a beautiful herringbone patterned chicken pecks hungrily at a bowl of water, it’s quite the idyllic scene here at Stoney Mountain Farm!
As we move into the pastures, the first pen of sheep we run into are actually baby sheep! Spring time is prime time for ewes to bear lambs and looks like Stoney Mountain Farm has gotten off to an early start. And according to Olga there’s a lot more to come, just in time for the Piedmont Farm Tour. Next up is a pen full of ewes, female and momma sheep! Taking in this beautiful flock is pretty amazing. The variety in their coat texture and colors, they all exhibit those side-flopped ears and look adorable. Stoney Mountain Farm raises three types of sheep: Navajo Churro, Dorset, and Corriedale Sheep. Olga chose these breeds for a variety of reasons ranging from their wool, coloration and/or quality as a meat.
We move on from the pen of ewes towards the back pastures and go by an ancient looking structure with thick-hewn beams and notched ends. Olga tells me this storage structure is one of the oldest buildings in the county and it looks as much. There are several empty pastures at Stoney Mountain Farm and I’m assuming the sheep get rotated from one to the other to let the grounds recover from grazing. As we head towards a flock of rams, we meet Olga’s husband, John! He seems to have a magical effect on the rams, they all come over in a cluster to greet him and poke their little faces out in excitement. The rams are interesting little animals. Take the cuteness of the standard sheep and add some curly horns or pointy horns and you’ve got a tougher looking sheep!
In back we also run into a flock with a couple of llamas on guard. Apparently the biggest danger to sheep at Stoney Mountain Farm are domestic dogs and these llamas HATE dogs! And given how big they are, most pooches would be wise to steer a wide berth from these sheep guardians. It’s funny to watch these llamas strut around with sheep in tow, the sheep seem to understand their protective nature and follow them like pied pipers.
Before we head back up front, I get to do a bit of Q&A with Olga about the farm and her experiences here. My biggest take-away is how attached Olga is to her flock and sheep and how hard it is to give them up for processing. But she feels that the whole cycle of raising the sheep on her lands with no chemicals is the right thing for us to do as meat eaters and truly a way to connect back to the earth we live on. And I’d have to say I whole-heartedly agree. Because seeing these animals, forget raising them, has raised my awareness of how detached we can be as consumers in the USA. So I’m thankful the events like the Piedmont Farm Tour and farms like Stoney Mountain Farm and Sunset Ridge Buffalo Farm. Knowing that they are raising these animals under humane conditions for consumption by those of us in the area, will be much more appreciated after visiting! So come on out the weekend of April 22nd and 23rd to visit Stoney Mountain Farm to meet Olga’s flock. I can’t think of a better way to learn about North Carolina’s food systems whether you’re a child or adult.
6559 Old Stoney Mountain Road
Burlington, NC 27217