A Look at Sheep Shearing and Small-Scale Farming Artisans

| 3/19/2012 2:05:54 PM

Danny Smith of Kingsville, Mo., pulled up to the farm around 2 p.m. He didn't leave until a little more than two hours later, but he had completed his job in half an hour. Smith has been shearing sheep for 40 years now, learning when he was 14 from his father. He deftly removed the winter coats from seven sheep without breaking a sweat, chatting all the while with the small crowd watching as he held the sheep between his knees and his electric shears in his right hand. With his left hand, he lifted one of the sheep's legs, then another, straightened out the tail and even flipped the sheep over to make the long back strokes. Watch a video of him at work below.


Small-Scale Farming Artisans

Smith is a busy man this time of year: Shearing 100 sheep and/or goats in one day is not unusual. He often travels through several farms in one area, stopping for food, refreshment, and  a spell "spinning yarns" about his life's work on the front porch. Afterwards, he moves down the road to the next farm and the next handful of ruminants awaiting their spring "haircut." Shearing sheep is an art not many undertake, and I couldn't help but wonder, as I talked with Smith and watched him working, if anyone was going to take his place in the years to come. Who would be his apprentice?

In this age of Wal-Mart superstores and mass production, it's hard to believe there are still artisans, such as Smith, who specialize as small-scale farming artisans. Similar to the traveler who repaired horse shoes, the hand-welder of metal farm tools, the mobile abbatoir, and the basket weaver whose creations held farm-fresh eggs, our small-scale farms and homesteads are in need of these small-scale specialists who keep the farm running. They need our support, our homesteads need their skills, and the sustainable farming and local foods movements need to incorporate these positions more and more as we grow in number and need. (Talk about job creation!)

Do you know of a similar craftsmen and tradeswomen who work in your region? Let us know about them in the comments field below.

Jennifer Kongs is the Managing Editor at MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine. When she’s not working at the magazine, she’s likely working in her garden, on the local running trails or in her kitchen instead. You can find Jennifer on Twitter or .

Erica Greer
6/6/2012 6:34:40 AM

Brian Grim. Elk Creek, Va serving Grayson, Smyth and Wythe counties. Experienced, affordable and skilled sheep shearer and all around great guy!! Plays a mean fiddle too!! One of his 4 little girls sometime ride along on his trips and help gather the wool. It's fun watching him teach them in only a way a father can. :)

3/29/2012 5:56:22 PM

We have babydoll southdowns in NWMissouri, 2 ewes & a ram. My 56 year old sis and I (61) have a developing homestead with miniatures and heritage breeds of sheep, goats, pigs, ducks, chickens, geese turkeys, a cow and 1 old horse rescued from an auction. Sis shears the sheep herself which is no small deal with miniatures (especially pregnant ewes). We have a small garden and love the life and the hassle. I will work as an RN for a few more years then it's all farm.

Jill Myers
3/23/2012 10:11:54 PM

I am an alpaca / llama shearer.. my husband and I are a team. We shear our own herd of 33 alpacas and we shear for other farms in the area.

Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

50 Years of Money-Saving Tips!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS for 50 years and counting, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter flipboard

Free Product Information Classifieds Newsletters