Shear delight


The FARM Institute held its ninth annual Sheepapalooza event on Saturday, where around 250 Islanders flocked to the barns to see the sheep sheared, lambs fed, and to learn about all things sheep. Hayrides, bracelet making, and lunch from the Art Cliff Diner food truck made for a fun-filled day at the farm.

People also got the chance to pet and bottle-feed the farm’s three lambs. Lily Robbins, the education manager, said they went with a space theme this year, and named one Hubble and one Luna; they’re still deciding on a name for the most recent lamb born, who is just one week old, and took note of the suggestions from kids all day at the event.

The main event, of course, was the shearing, and sheep shearing expert Andrew Rice of Halifax, Vt., made it look easy. Rice, who has been through eight shearing schools in New Zealand, said he has sheared all the sheep on Martha’s Vineyard for the past 20 years. He led shearing demonstrations throughout the day, explaining the delicate yet seamless process to onlookers as he went. All of the farm’s 18 grown sheep got haircuts at the event.

“In New Zealand, they say it takes 10 years or 10,000 sheep to learn how to shear a sheep,” he told the Times. “I’ve sheared probably half a million.” If done right, the fleece should stay together in one piece.

Then volunteer and self-proclaimed “fiber freak” Liz Toomey and the FARM Institute’s education garden manager Rebecca Sanders got to sorting, looking for fine fibers and crimps for the best fleece. After they’re sorted, roughly 20 pounds of fleece will be sent to the Green Mountain Spinnery in Putney, Vt.., who will then ship the ready-to-sell yarn back to the farm to be sold at the Farm Stand.

Overall, the FARM Institute’s engagement site manager Lindsay Brown said, they were happy with the event despite the bad weather. “[Andrew] Rice was amazing as usual,” she told the Times, “and we received some really positive feedback from guests.”