Amid rising fuel and food prices, Carolynn Bernard, owner of Bless Ewe Sheep Farm and Sanctuary, is asking the community to help her get through the winter.
Bernard, a disabled veteran, uses his disability checks to support his flock of sheep, but his fixed income isn’t as high as it used to be. Feed prices have increased by 50% since last year in some cases. Now it costs $122 a day to feed Bless Ewe’s herd, Bernard said.
In order to feed the sheep this winter, Bernard turned to GoFundMe in hopes of raising $15,000 to buy the hay needed. You can find the fundraiser by searching for “Bless Ewe” on the GoFundMe website.
“The choice I had was either to send them to the slaughterhouse and stop, or to do what I could, so I put in as many sheep as I could. I gave them away,” Bernard said.
Bless Ewe is not your typical sheep farm. Bernard collects sheep that are old or disabled or that, for another reason, would be sent to the slaughterhouse. Profit has never been Bernard’s motive.
Wool and breeding stock were Bless Ewe’s main sources of income. However, to stay afloat, Bernard restructures the Enumclaw area farm into a sanctuary and turns his business into a non-profit organization.
This means many younger breeding stock must be accommodated, as only disabled and older sheep will be covered by the sanctuary, Bernard said.
“The goal with the sanctuary is to find placement in non-breeding pet/fibre homes for sheep that are younger and able to leave,” Bernard said in the GoFundMe post.
Bernard plans to use his own income to care for the remaining sheep that are not covered by the sanctuary. Raising sheep is a feed-intensive process, so by stopping herding, Bless Ewe will be able to save on feed costs, Bernard said.
Sheep that are not used for breeding also create better wool, so their fleeces will be easier to sell.
To create an additional revenue stream, Bless Ewe is creating a Patreon where subscribers can virtually adopt sheep and gain access to barn cameras, Zoom calls, and other content and merchandise. Bernard also plans to use Patreon to share his story as a veteran turned sheep farmer.
Bernard got into sheep farming in a roundabout way: by training border collies. In 2008, she was training border collies for competition and realized that to take training to the next level, she would need some sheep.
After buying some sheep, she quickly falls in love with the animals, their intelligence, their temperament and their affection. Bernard shifted his focus from dog training to sheep herding and created Bless Ewe.
As a disabled veteran, working with sheep helped Bernard through some difficult parts of his life.
“I’ve worked with a lot of veterans in the past and one of the things these sheep do as animals of prey, you have to figure out very quickly how to manage your moods and the energy that you project,” Bernard said. “If you’re excited, if you have the wrong energy, if you have the wrong mindset, they won’t have anything to do with you. Because they’re prey and they don’t fly away, you know you’re safe and that’s the most important thing to me when I’m with these sheep, I don’t need to be on my guard.
Bless Ewe is also looking for volunteers to help work on the farm. Email Bernard at [email protected] for more information.