FIONA HARRAR, Livestock Manager
What led you to farming?
My first farm job out of college was volunteering at a therapeutic community for homeless people. I wanted to travel, so I went to Scotland and ended up on a farm. I thought I’d like the social work aspect of it, but I ended up liking the farming part better. After that, I worked on a variety of vegetable farms throughout the Northeast, and a lot with dairy animals, both sheep and cows.
How did you settle on animals?
I was vegetarian for 12 years. I wanted to eat meat again, but in order to do that, I had to raise it myself. I fell into a job in Vermont as a livestock manager and decided that I would make more of a difference raising meat myself and educating people about it.
Lambing is a popular time with our visitors. What’s it like for your team?
It’s stressful, but it’s also extremely rewarding. You anticipate it for five months and then, once it actually happens, that’s all you can focus on. I check on the sheep every four hours. I like to be there when it happens or soon after, to make sure the animals are thriving.
What projects are you most excited about this season?
I’m really looking forward to raising ducks. Waterfowl actually graze better than chickens do and benefit more from eating pasture. And I’m looking forward to training my new herding dog!
Speaking of which, who are Syd, Beppo and Rex?
They’re all working dogs. Syd is my personal assistant, Beppo is my chicken and sheep guard, and Rex is my new puppy. I’m hoping Rex will herd sheep, ducks and other poultry.
What’s different about the way you interact with guard dogs versus pets?
You want a guard dog to bond with you, but not to want to be with you all the time. It’s very difficult when they’re puppies, but you want them to bond with the sheep, not you. Guard dogs can also be very friendly, but ultimately they’re guard dogs. You just have to be aware when you’re around them that it’s in their DNA to protect their flock.
I hear you’re adept at languages other than dog-speak.
I’m fluent in Spanish and use it quite a bit; that was my college major. I know a little bit of German and some Italian. And I dabble in Danish, just for fun.
What’s your favorite thing to eat from the farm?
Kohlrabi. That surprises people, I find. It’s one of my favorite things to snack on.
Originally published on June 21, 2017