Apple Barn Farm sits at the heart of the beautiful Hudson Valley in upstate New York. When Lindsay and Brian Shea purchased the 250-acre property it had been abandoned for 50 years and the orchards were dead and the land needed extensive renovation work. The couple hired Marybeth Boruta as farm manager to help with the transformation of the farm, and they began to make changes. They cleared the orchards, planted 50 acres of hay fields, as well as peach trees and other fruits. Today, the Apple Barn is a popular wedding venue and the farm is home to a small flock of Certified AWA sheep who graze the abundant pastures and new orchards.
Marybeth chose a Tunis-Dorper cross sheep to make up their flock, a breed known for their tolerance of both warm and cold climates. Elizabeth Douglas, shepherd at Apple Barn Farm, spends her days caring for the sheep, moving them regularly to fresh pasture. “There’s no comparison to pasture-based management,” Marybeth explains. “Sheep are created to eat this way.” Letting their animals range free on pasture and constant observation are the most important aspects of the animal husbandry practices at Apple Barn Farm, where the sheep are raised according to the highest welfare standards in the U.S. “Frequent interaction with the animals is key,” Marybeth points out. “We are with them so many times a day because their wellbeing is so important to us.”
Apple Barn Farm decided to pursue certification with AWA because they were interested in selling their lamb to the Grazin’ Diner restaurant, situated in nearby Hudson. Grazin’ Diner opened in October 2011 as the first Certified AWA restaurant in the U.S., sourcing all its meat, milk and eggs from other local AWA farms. “The animals were raised here, graze here, and now we are also able to supply a local restaurant just a few miles away,” says Marybeth.
The team at Apple Barn Farm hopes to grow the farming side of their business in the years to come, expanding their flock and continuing to use the landscape in a way that benefits both people and animals. Visit www.applebarnfarm.com for more information about the farm or visit the Apple Barn Farm Facebook page.