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Visitors admire the business end of the award-winning Holsteins at Elm Crest Farm during the LFA agricultural tour in late April. Van Dusen photo
PERTH – Things can get pretty hectic around a sheep farm during lambing season; still, Sarah Loten, of Drover’s Way Sheep Farm, took a little time off towards the end of April to welcome about 15 people who bussed into her yard as part of the third annual Lanark Federation of Agriculture tour.
Loten didn’t exactly take the time off. She shepherded her guests around the premises as she went about the business of checking on the flock, making sure her guard dogs were on the job, and that new arrivals weren’t abandoned… such as one she picked up while making the rounds.
The farm tourists were surprised to learn that Loten keeps six guard dogs to fight off coyotes, a constant plague, especially during lambing season; she once lost 22 sheep in one day at a time when only a couple of dogs were on duty.
She maintains 600 fenced acres divided into compounds that she drives three times a day to check on several hundred Dorset and Rideau-Arcott sheep and lambs. Abandoned babies are taken into the converted cow dairy milk house and bottle fed. The Lotens have added three open-ended fabric buildings to the operation to store equipment and shelter ewes and lambs.
When ready to go, sheep are marketed at sales barns in Greely and Cookstown. With her husband Oliver working off-farm and her involved in some other interests, Loten made no secret of the time and energy involved in trying to keep up with the operation.
Other tour stops included Elm Crest Farm, a traditional two-time Master Breeder Shield winner now working at a third run for the gold; Canadian Co-operative Wool Growers Ltd. based since 1940 in a former railway roundhouse in Carleton Place that markets three million pounds of raw wool a year, mostly to China; lunch at Temples Sugar Bush and Pancake House which draws sap off 5,000 taps; and Dairy Distillery in Almonte which crafts spirits from milk.
At Elm Crest Farm with its 75 registered milking Holsteins, visitors were escorted by Derek Oliver who runs the operation with his brother and parents. Talk around the place these days is largely about modernization and succession which often go hand-in-hand, Oliver said.
Many of the passengers were farmers… but some were urbanites drawn by the opportunity to learn a little more about agricultural activities going on in their backyard, said Andrea McCoy-Naperstkow, federation secretary-treasurer, adding a special invitation went out to town councillors across the county.
“Many of them couldn’t make it this time because flooding in several places is keeping them busy,” McCoy-Napertskow explained. One who did get on the bus was Carleton Place councillor Linda Seccaspina, a former fashion designer and marketer, author, and local historian who greeted tour stops with wide-eyed enthusiasm and several curious questions.
Emphasizing that she appreciated the important role of agriculture in the county, the councillor wondered how more of that role might be incorporated into town life and the urban economy.