Sheepmen in Cowtown
By Lynn Harlan
The American Sheep Industry (ASI) held their annual convention recently in Fort Worth, Texas. Fort Worth is where cattle drives to the North all started. The sheep industry in America is a small knit group, and 400-plus attendees fit nicely in to one Texas-sized hotel.
All sizes of flocks were represented, from smaller farm flocks in the East and Midwest, to large range operations in the West. Sheep are a well-diversified animal, providing flavorful loins, legs and chops as well as wonderful, warm, wool clothing.
Sheep are also stars in the solar grazing field, where flocks of sheep are grazed under and near solar panels – not only keeping weeds down but eating grass growing under the panel’s rain run-off as well. Sheep are also high in demand for grazing vineyards and ski areas during summer months.
Attendees at this year’s convention know how wonderful sheep are. We were all just hoping for some good news in our industry. The lamb, wool and pelt markets are depressed, and better days don’t seem to be coming along anytime soon. It will be helpful for all of agriculture if the farm bill passes this September.
But, back to the good news – hotel chefs at the convention did an amazing job with the tasty lamb donated by Double JJ Lamb – Texas of San Angelo, Texas. There were good, informative sessions, as always, and the tours were fun.
Wyoming’s own Dr. Jim Logan received the Peter Orwick Camptender Award. He shared this with Dr. Cindy Wolf of Minnesota.
Make It With Wool contestants are always a bright spot, with their wonderfully constructed wool garments. Madi Dunning, a contestant from Encampment, made it to the top 10 in judging.
Of course, a trip to the historic Fort Worth Stockyards was in order, with its remaining yards and catwalk. Many old buildings have been repurposed into shops and pubs. And, no trip to Fort Worth is complete without a visit to the Duke John Wayne’s An American Experience Museum.
Trips to and from the airport and around town were taken in “Ewe-bers” – I told you the sheep is a special animal. For those who haven’t been there, the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport is as big as Manhattan’s inland area.
We had different nationalities of Uber drivers, for example, Rwanda, Ethiopia and a native Texan or two. The most interesting driver was our last one when we were leaving to come home. He was born in Palestine, moved with his family to Jordan, Texas when he was young and decided to come study in America when he was 16 years old.
He became an engineer, married an Irish gal, raised a successful family and retired. He drives an Uber occasionally because he likes people.
He also loves lamb. He is an “ethnic buyer,” which is one of the fastest growing consumer groups of American lamb. He buys a live lamb and will sacrifice it in a ceremonial way, cut it up and share the meat and then have a feast celebrating a religious holiday.
By the end of the ride, he and Bob shook hands and both said there could have been a business, perhaps if they were younger.
Wyoming is well represented on the ASI board with Brad Boner of Glenrock coming in as president. Brad has already spent four years on the board and will reign as president for the next two years.
Peter John Camino of Buffalo will continue on as chairman of the Lamb Board, and Lee Isenberger of Gillette sits on the Wool Council. Outgoing President Susan Schultz of Ohio asked young people to get involved, and Kate Harlan jumped in with both feet being nominated to the National Lamb Feeders position on the executive board.
Kate was actually not at the convention as her travel plans were scrubbed with the storm snafu in Denver, but she’s assured her parents will be home next year to do the feeding as Bob Harlan’s term as National Lamb Feeders representative on the executive board was up.
We’re all home now enjoying the last of January, as much as below-zero temps and plenty of snow can be tolerated.
Wendell Berry says, “You think winter will never end, and then, when you don’t expect it, when you have almost forgotten about it, warmth comes in a different light.”