Saturday, April 13, 2024
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FARM TO TABLE: Fern Hollow Farm: where the grass—and clover—is always greener

Jackie Nunnery

by Jackie Nunnery

It’s moving day at Kilmarnock’s Fern Hollow Farm and the 150 ewes and their lambs are excited about the greener pastures on the other side of the fence. As soon as owner Brian Barnes opens up the fencing, the sheep excitedly run and jump into the next area which will be their new home for the next three days.

Fern Hollow Farm co-owner Brian Barnes moves the herd to fresh pasture for grazing. Photo by Jackie Nunnery

“We call it mob grazing,” Barnes said over the sounds of happy bleats and grass being chewed contentedly in the background. Barnes said this method of intense but short intervals of grazing allows the land to recover and keeps animals healthier “without antibiotics and without deworming the sheep, and without using pesticides or herbicides on the pasture.” They occasionally plant a grass and clover mixture, but for the most part, “much of it comes up on its own.”

“We really like grazing crop residues in the winter and during hot times allowing them to graze in forested areas where they can stay cool and control invasive vines and poison ivy,” he added.

The family-owned farm—Barnes, his wife Ginny, son Nathaniel and daughter Rachel all have roles in the operation—is a standout as one of the few but growing livestock operations in the area. It is also unusual in that Barnes ended up….

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