Amid rising costs of fuel and food, Carolynn Bernard, the owner of Bless Ewe Sheep Farm and Sanctuary, is asking the community for help to get through the winter.
Bernard, a disabled veteran, uses her disability checks to support her flock of sheep, but her fixed income isn’t stretching as far as it once did. Prices for feed have gone up 50% since last year in some cases. Now it costs $122 per day to feed Bless Ewe’s flock, Bernard said.
In order to keep the sheep fed this winter, Bernard took to GoFundMe in hopes of raising $15,000 to buy the hay needed. You can find the fundraiser by searching “Bless Ewe” on the GoFundMe website.
“The choice I had was to either send them off to slaughter and quit or just do what I can, so I’m placing as many sheep as I possibly can. I’ve been giving them away,” Bernard said.
Bless Ewe isn’t your typical sheep farm. Bernard takes in the sheep that are elderly or disabled or for some other reason would be sent to the slaughterhouse. Profit was never Bernard’s motive.
Wool and breeding stock have been Bless Ewe’s primary revenue streams. However, to stay afloat, Bernard is restructuring the Enumclaw-area farm into a sanctuary and turning her business into a non-profit.
This means rehoming many of the younger breeding stock because only the disabled and older sheep will be covered under the sanctuary, Bernard said.
“The goal with the sanctuary is to find placement into non-breeding pet/fiber homes for sheep that are younger and able to leave,” Bernard said in the GoFundMe post.
Bernard plans to use her own income to take care of the remaining sheep that aren’t covered by the sanctuary. Breeding sheep is a feed-intensive process, so by halting breeding, Bless Ewe will be able to save on feed costs, Bernard said.
Sheep that aren’t being used for breeding also create better wool, so their fleeces will be easier to sell.
To create an additional revenue stream, Bless Ewe is making a Patreon in which subscribers can virtually adopt sheep and have access to barn cams, Zoom calls and other content and merchandise. Bernard also plans to use Patreon to share her story as a veteran turned sheep farmer.
Bernard got into raising sheep in a roundabout way: through training border collies. In 2008, she was training border collies for competition and realized that in order to take the training to the next level, she would need to have some sheep.
After buying a few sheep, she quickly fell in love with the animals and their intelligence, temperament and affection. Bernard shifted her focus from training dogs to raising sheep and created Bless Ewe.
As a disabled veteran, working with sheep has helped Bernard get through some rough parts of her life.
“I have worked with a lot of veterans in the past and one of the things that these sheep do as prey animals, you have to figure out really quickly how to manage your moods and the energy you’re projecting,” Bernard said. “If you are amped up, if you have the wrong energy, if you have the wrong mindset, they won’t have anything to do with you. Because they’re prey animals, and they’re not taking off, you know you’re safe and that’s the biggest thing for me when I’m around these sheep I don’t have to be on guard.”
Bless Ewe is also looking for volunteers to help work on the farm. Email Bernard at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.