the inside scoop on leyden glen farms

Based in Massachusetts’ Pioneer Valley, Leyden Glen Farms is an exceptional producer of grass-fed lamb, owned and operated by Mark Duprey, Kristin Nicholas, and their daughter Julia Nicholas Duprey. Leyden Glen’s meat is healthy, delicious, and free of hormones and antibiotics. In addition to providing top-notch meat for your taste buds, Leyden Glen’s farming activities help to reclaim abandoned and unused farm and woodlands, and keep New England hilltown vistas green and open. This month, Local Pickins had the pleasure of interviewing Kristin to learn more about the ins and outs of Leyden Glen Farm.

Why do you sell your meat frozen?

Selling meat at Farmers Markets is different than selling a tomato or a carrot. When you sell any kind of meat to the public, it is highly regulated by the USDA and local health departments. The only legal way of selling farm raised meat to the public is frozen. Our lambs are processed at a USDA slaughterhouse in Athol, MA where there is a federally regulated meat inspector on the site full-time. The facility is state of the art with its handling facilities designed by animal behaviorist Temple Grandin. We process our animals frequently so that the meat our customers buy has not been frozen for long periods of time. We also sell live lambs to customers who want to butcher the animals themselves.

On your website, you talk about the connection between your production of grass-fed sheep and your project of reclaiming unused farm lands. Tell me about this.

Mark and I have been raising sheep for over 30 years. It was a bit by accident that we discovered how good sheep are at reclaiming overgrown pastures. Our sheep were grazing in scrubby woods that had been pasture twenty years before. Mark cut down some of the bigger trees for firewood and the sheep did the rest – clearing the land themselves by eating the vegetation. Sheep are very efficient grazers, turning grass, weeds, and leaves of trees into lambs and meat. It became evident that by increasing the flock of sheep, we could bring back the overgrown pastures with the use of sheep. Their tiny hooves do not damage the soil structure and as they graze, the manure they deposit is worked back into the soil with moisture and their hooves. In a year’s grazing, an abandoned pasture can be brought back to a fertile state. It is truly amazing.

How does lambing season affect your daily routine on the farm and what is the best part about lambing season?

Lambing season is the busiest time of year here on our farm (although if you want the truth, there really is not a down-time on any sheep farm). We lamb in the month of January. Sheep are “seasonal breeders” and are pregnant for 5 months. They come into estrus in August as the days shorten. Lambing starts out slow with one or two lambs born first, usually around Christmas. A week later, there will be a couple more and then the third week in, lambs are popping out at a rate of 20 a day! Most of the ewes will care for their lambs without any help but there are those who won’t accept their babies. Mark spends about sixteen hours a day in the lambing barn making sure the lambs are delivered safely, even going to the barn in the middle of the night to check on the ewes and lambs.

Where can our readers find your offerings?

Right now, we sell our lamb meat at the Saturday Amherst (MA) Common Market and the Tuesday Northampton (MA) market. In the winter, we sell at the Amherst Winter Market. We also have a self-serve farm stand in our barn at our farm. Directions to our farm are here, and you can sign up for our newsletter here.

Photo credits: Kristin Nicholas

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