In this episode, you’ll learn…
- How Sarah Scully went from knitting to raising sheep starting an organic tannery
- How Sarah learned to tan hides organically without chemicals
- How Sarah found the courage to go from librarian to starting her own business
- Capital and equipment requirements to start a tanning business
- Bark vs brain tanning and the tanning process
- Why Sarah has no plans to tan cattle or bison hides
- The elements of danger in the tanning process
- And much more about tanning hides!
- Don’t forget to check out the Small Farm Nation Academy whenever you’re ready to GET GROWING!
When Sarah Scully sent one of her lamb hides off to be tanned, she was thrilled to get it back. But she quickly discovered she had an allergic reaction to the chemicals the tannery used and wondered if there was a better way.
When she couldn’t find any organic tanneries in the United States, she rushed off to the U.K., where she learned the art of organically preserving sheepskins. She returned home to Vermont, quit her job as a librarian and started Vermont Natural Sheepskins.
This is an inspiring entrepreneurial story, so listen in.
CLICK HERE TO READ FULL TRANSCRIPT
Tim Young: [00:00:00] Small farm nation is sponsored by Farmers Web, software for your farm. Farmers Web helps farms inform buyers of available product handle orders simplify customer interactions and reduce the administrative load so check them out at farmers web dot com.
As sustainable livestock farmers, we want to honor the whole animal. But what about when it comes to using the animals hides? Hey it’s Tim Young from smallfarmnation.com. Today I’m speaking with Sarah Scully who founded Vermont Natural Sheepskins as a business that organically preserved sheep skins for her farm and others.
Tim Young: [00:00:41] Joining me today is Sarah Scully founder of Vermont natural sheepskin. Now Sarah was born in Vermont but grew up in the southeastern United States just like me. After college she and her husband Rick relocated to a rural setting in Vermont for its cold climate and established farming communities. She has worked in audio production and she was also a professional librarian before being inspired to start the first commercial organic cannery in America. I can’t wait to hear more about that we’re gonna dive all into it. So Sarah welcome to small farm nation.
Sarah Scully: [00:01:15] Thank you so much Tim. Thanks for having me.
Tim Young: [00:01:18] So how did you actually get into sheep. What was your first experience raising sheep for yourself.
Sarah Scully: [00:01:24] Well I had to go back a little further than that. So I started off as a knitter and I didn’t a lot of people in the fiber arts community began when they were children. I did not. I came to an as an adult but I immediately found it was like sort of the thing that I’d been looking for you know that that interest that you just can’t put down and from there we had already moved to Vermont and we had sort of thought about getting animals and then of course with the knitting and wool sheep was the logical choice for us. We have about 10 acres here so it’s a very small sort of homestead. And we’re on a steep slope. We have poor soil. So in terms of what kind of animals to get you know dairy cows wouldn’t it worked. Horses aren’t going to work here but sheep do really well.
Tim Young: [00:02:14] Now where did you move to Vermont from outside of Washington D.C..
Sarah Scully: [00:02:19] We were we’re living in a suburb of D.C. Silver Spring and we did look around kind of the suburbs of Maryland and that but that whole area was and and continued to get more and more developed and built up a lot of the farmland has now turned into housing developments and office parks. So I’m glad we made that choice.
Tim Young: [00:02:40] No kidding right. It’s much better much much better being in the country than being near D.C. isn’t it.
Sarah Scully: [00:02:45] Yeah it is. It’s so much more relaxing. I mean the thing I miss about being in D.C. of course is all the cultural things. And you know all the all the variety and diversity that you get from living in a place with more people. But the peace and quiet up here is very nice. I can see the stars at night. All those good things.
Tim Young: [00:03:04] Yeah I know what you mean about the having access to the culture and you know and we have a pretty young daughter she’s six years old. So you know when you live out the middle of nowhere which is where we live. I mean you’re not close to anything they don’t get that. But we learned that we’d rather travel to D.C. which we do every now and then or travel to other cities and expose her to those cultural aspects of the museums and the arts and whatnot and then go back to the country rather than live in the city.
Sarah Scully: [00:03:29] Right. Exactly.
Tim Young: [00:03:31] You can always visit the city.
Sarah Scully: [00:03:34] That’s right. Yeah.
Tim Young: [00:03:36] So you mentioned that one of the things that you were looking for was a cold climate why was that important to you.
Sarah Scully: [00:03:42] Oh I just like the cold. You know I grew up in Columbia South Carolina. My parents moved there from Vermont when I was a child and being roasted about eight months out of the year which is how I felt. You almost feel like you’re being boiled alive. It’s so hot and swampy and I just you know my my husband and I we’re looking at a map of the United States where we’re trying to figure out where we wanted to live. And we just started eliminating places you know and that was the first one to go. For me I was like nope no more swamps no more bugs.
Tim Young: [00:04:15] We farmed about an hour and a half away from Columbia and Elbert County Georgia which is right on the Georgia South Carolina line. You know we we raised about one hundred Katahdin sheep there in addition to all kinds of other species of livestock. Yeah you’re right I mean it’s you know it’s very challenging from a farming point of view it’s hot. I mean the fire ants are incredible. So there’s a lot of better places in the country than that.
Sarah Scully: [00:04:40] Poisonous snakes Poison Ivy. I mean I don’t please your listeners you know that live in the south there’s many beautiful things about it too and there’s so many advantages. You know you can farm all year round and I can’t. So you know there’s wonderful things about it too but just from our point point of view I would rather shovel snow and and do that than be hot.
Tim Young: [00:05:00] yeah absolutely. I totally get it. So you got a steep hillside 10 acres or so in Vermont. It wasn’t it wasn’t good for dairy cattle so. So what you decided to get some sheep.
Sarah Scully: [00:05:12] Decided to get some sheep it was that or a tractor to sort of just maintain you know keep keep the brush down and we cleared about three acres when we bought our property it was all pine forest. Not old growth just from what had been clear cut you know a century ago. And so this was like scrubby for. Not not valuable timber property or anything like that. We wanted to get some sunlight on our driveway.
Sarah Scully: [00:05:37] We wanted to get some sunlight so we could have a small vegetable garden and then you have to keep the land open or it will regrow really quickly. And you know do you want to spend money on a tractor and a barn to put your tractor in and gas for your tractor and maintenance on your tractor or do you want to spend money on a small shed and some fencing and some animals and and you know it’s nice to look out and see the sheep grazing and so that’s what we did.
Tim Young: [00:06:04] Yeah. You know it’s a battle you’re talking about is one that I face all the time when you have a rural property you know whether it’s set up as a homestead or whatever. You know you’ve got to maintain it and it’s one thing if it’s all words but if you’ve got any open land at all a few acres or whatever you’re either gonna be mowing and weed whacking all the time or you know you’ve got to put animals out there and let them do the work for you. That’s what I do it herself like that’s what you did as well.
Sarah Scully: [00:06:29] Exactly. And we started out with a heritage breed of sheep a rare breed called Navajo churro. And as the name suggests the Navajo DNA people were the folks that really latched on. They didn’t historically have sheep. There were no sheep in North America. But when colonials came over the Spanish came over they brought sheep with them and the DNA people quickly latched onto that as a great resource. You know you get your wool you get your pelts you get your meat you get. I think they would do like yogurt and things with that with the milk and it became a central part of their economy. And and then the federal government of course through relocation and you know those those terrible programs that happen in 18 or 19 to 20th centuries the breed of sheep was almost lost because of that.
Sarah Scully: [00:07:28] And so we were interested there were some local people raising those up here it’s mostly a breed that you find in the southwest. But we had a few breeders here and it’s a compelling story we wanted to do what we could to to keep the breed going. And and they’re a great sheep to raise I would say for a beginner because they’re very self-sufficient. They’re easy easy Lammers.
Sarah Scully: [00:07:52] They’re smart they can kind of take care of themselves they have a lot of that wild sheep instinct and so you don’t have to do a lot with them. You don’t have to supplement their diet. They can live off of scrubby land and and brush and. They’re pretty easy to take care of. So we started with those.
Tim Young: [00:08:09] So how did you actually go from raising a few of those to having your first experience with tanning?
Sarah Scully: [00:08:15] So I wanted to you know honor the whole animal when we had our first lambs that we were recalling after our first breeding season. And I sent those lamb skins off to a commercial tannery and they came back they looked beautiful but they were full of chemical residues and I could smell them. I’m very allergic to a lot of things myself. I’m very sensitive. And when I touch them I broke out in hives from the chemical residues.
Sarah Scully: [00:08:42] And so I was just thinking well how am I going to sell this if I can’t even be around it. And do I even want to sell this and sort of inflicted on somebody else. And isn’t there a better way. And that’s what inspired me to do more research. There are home tanning methods that you can do and I sort of briefly considered those but they take a huge amount of physical labor and a lot of time many hours per skin. And as I’m want to do I was thinking well if you scaled it up you wouldn’t have to spend that much labor per skin. So I found this woman in England. Her name is Niki Porte and she had founded organic sheep skins was the name of her business and she had a link on her site that said you know is this a business for you and that’s that’s what planted the seed was reading that and thinking about that. And then of course it took a few years of research and planning to actually open the tannery. I trained with her went over to England on a couple of visits and trained with her and learned her veg tanning method which is really meant for a small cottage industry size of a setup. So it’s not really all.
Tim Young: [00:09:54] So before we get onto that piece what does that actually have a problem with a conventional tanning because I don’t I think a lot of people aren’t really aware of what’s being used to produce these products when they buy them. So when you talk about some industrial chemicals or whatnot what’s what are they typically using in that process.
Sarah Scully: [00:10:10] There’s a few different processes. The main one and kind of the industrial standard which don’t get me wrong it makes a beautiful product is chrome tanning. And so that’s a heavy metal and I think people may be aware of the problems of using heavy metals and production they get into the environment around the facility they end up in the end product and that’s chromium. And the other phase of that process is that they use dry cleaning fluid perchlorate ethylene to get the grease out of the skin at the last stage and that stuff is highly toxic. It is known to cause cancer and it’s just not something I would want to be exposing myself to what I think a lot of people might be sensitive to it. So it’s really the dry cleaning fluid that’s the problem with that method. There’s another a couple of small tanners that use a slightly different method that doesn’t use the crown but they do use formaldehyde unfortunately and again that is a known toxin that is cancer causing and etc.. And anything that you use to tan is going to end up in the end product. Every every tanned skin is going to have the residue of whatever you use to tan it with. So you have you know you have to be conscious of that
Tim Young: [00:11:33] I don’t I don’t use much water in a tanning process but whatever you use is going to end up in the water system too.
Sarah Scully: [00:11:40] It is the chrome tanneries are heavily regulated and they have to reuse there. They have to recapture their water and pull that residue out and reuse it. And they do a good job of that. I don’t know how closely some of these other tanneries that are sort of doing they’re doing more of a taxidermy kind of a process and I don’t know how heavily regulated those are so now.
Tim Young: [00:12:08] Were you a librarian at the time because you said that when you went to Nicky’s site an organic sheepskin that it said is this a business for you. So why why would that message even resonate with you was something missing in your career that you were looking for.
Sarah Scully: [00:12:25] Yeah you know I think like a lot of us we we might have tried to office life. And I really enjoyed a lot of aspects of my job but just being inside being in front of a computer all day you know that was really starting to stress me on where me down and I decided I really wanted to be. I still work inside primarily but you know it’s physical labor. And I think I think I had always had an entrepreneur mindset I just hadn’t had the competence or an idea to try that I thought would work where I thought that there was an open enough market that I could get in on it. You know we tried selling our farm products and things and I kind of wish I’d stumbled on you at the time when we started because I made a lot of those you know those mistakes about not knowing my market and not knowing how to find my customers and to some of that basic business acumen that you need to have is as a small farmer but tanning. You know nobody else was doing it and I thought well here’s an open field you know if I if I can manage to get it going I know I’m going to have customers and I’ve been in those years of starting to have keep livestock and thinking about the tannery. I’d been talking to shop other shepherds through our sheep and goats association and festivals and events I would attend and was just hearing a lot of grumbling about yeah. Is there something isn’t there a better option or a or a more environmentally friendly option this was an issue that frustrated the heck out of us for years because we thought we raised the you know heard of Murray Grey cattle.
Tim Young: [00:13:58] Like I said we raised a hundred Katahdin sheep at a time and we did a lot of processing. We always you know we very much valued celebrating and honoring the entire animal. Of course that means on you know the meat and the bones and the organs and all those things but we never could find a good resource to do anything with the hides or if we did we had to ship it to like Pennsylvania or Ohio someplace far away and go through a conventional process and it was just really frustrating I mean did you do any market research with other farmers to find out before you started your business if they had the same frustration.
Sarah Scully: [00:14:32] I did yes and I did it very kind of low tech. I made a Google survey form and I sent it around to a bunch of sheep and got associations and I said you know would you please send this to your members I’m collecting information I want opinions. And I asked him all kinds of questions you know what do you do now. Have you ever tanned your stuff. Have you been happy with it how much have you paid. How much would you be willing to pay. You know do you value organic. Do your customers value organic. How much of a premium do you think you could charge for that if it was available. How many hides per year do you think you would have. And that was a huge resource and and it helped me clarify my thinking and of course help me get funding and justify the whole business model to the bank. So absolutely.
Tim Young: [00:15:21] Talk about that for a second what did the what did the bank have to fund for you. I mean it sounds like you needed a capital or something.
Sarah Scully: [00:15:29] Yeah. Because this process like I said it’s not it’s not a fully Labor intensified process. It is. I use machines. I use equipment to help me. And so all of that equipment it’s either industrial scale like washing machines like you find in a hotel laundry which are very expensive or custom built machines what are called paddles. They’re the big tanks that the skin’s soak in while they’re tanning and there’s a paddle kind of like you would imagine on the back of a steamboat or something and it agitates the water slowly so that the tan is even in the tan is what I want to say distributed in the in the liquor and all that stuff costs you know thousands of dollars. So we did invest some of our own money but we didn’t want to take a hundred percent of the risk on ourselves so we did look for funding. Fortunately there is a local there called the Randolph area development corporation and they help small businesses and they help find they helped put me in touch with my landlord in the facility that I’m renting. And they also did provide us with a loan so that that kind of connecting organization for small business and entrepreneurs and that was really valuable to pay small farm nation.
Tim Young: [00:18:20] So let’s let’s dive into the process actually for tanning because I find this fascinating. And as somebody who was an artisan cheesemaker I often got asked the question well how do you make cheese and while there’s really there’s different make procedure for different types of cheese of course there’s basically you know a common six or eight steps that you go through for all cheese and so were the tanning. I mean the first step of course is you know you got to get hired you’ve got to get skin. So where do you source yours from?
Sarah Scully: [00:18:47] Right. So about 80 percent of our business is tanning for other people. So my customers are my source. And then they get their skins back. The other percentage I get from local butchers that I have developed your relationship or occasionally some of my customers all tan some for them and then they’ll trade me some if they have a big batch. So they’re all local all sourced from New England. And the first step in my process is actually washing the skin. Laundering it essentially. I use a phosphate free eco friendly detergent. And you have to get out all the dirt manure blood salt all that stuff. The skins and arrived salted salt cured from my customers so that they are stable for a number of months before I can get to them. And then from there they they soak in what’s called pickle which help further rehydrate the skin. Then I flush them I take all the sinew and extra fat off of the skin side and then from there they go into tannin and I use a tree bark tannin from a tree called them a most a tree and they soak in there for anywhere from a week to two weeks typically for lambs Rams skins because they can be very thick. This is the adult male sheep. Those skins can take up to two months sometimes for the calves the tree bark.
Tim Young: [00:20:19] Does the tree bark process the tan and create the thing type of in somatic reaction that brain tanning does or are what does it do.
Sarah Scully: [00:20:27] No it does not. So you’re you’re talking about a lipid type of tan the active ingredient if you will in the brain is the cholesterol and I am not an expert on brain tanning but here’s what I know about it. The cholesterol replaces some of the volatile compounds in the skin and prevents it from going bad. It’s kind it’s more of a preservative if you will than a full tan. And then what you have to do to really complete that tanning process is you have to smoke the skin and it’s the smoke from tree bark. That adds an extra layer of preservative protection waterproofing etc. so that some brain tanning is sort of a two step process with the tree bark tan or as it’s called in the industry. You might hear veg tan or vegetable tan that’s a tree bark tan. And what that does is the the tan and the compound it’s the same one that you find in wine penetrates into the skin and changes the chemical composition of the skin and replaces again a lot of those volatile compounds in the skin to to prevent it from breaking down. So what you end up with in a veg tan is that the finished product is part sheep part tree because it’s bonded together.
Tim Young: [00:21:53] Okay. Got it. So so now you’re in the process where you’re at the tanning stage and you do embark anywhere. How long how far are we into the process now time wise to get to this point.
Sarah Scully: [00:22:03] Probably about two weeks and then from there let’s see probably about another week to finish. So from tanning and then they’re pulled out they’re rinsed the excess tannin is washed away I stick them out on boards and dry them. You want to dry the leather and then buffing to soften the hide and trimming and then coming the wool to get rid of any loose fibres you know hay chaff anything that might be in the in the wool side you said about 80 percent of your customers are the farm.
Tim Young: [00:22:47] So does that mean that you’re producing. I know you’re not white labelling or something like that but are you giving them the product back and then they’re selling it to their customers.
Sarah Scully: [00:22:55] Exactly. So I actually stamp them with my tannery name just so that people understand that it’s come from an organic source. You can also tell my product because the the final leather is sort of a pinkish beige colour from the tree bark and you see if you see sheep’s skins out there on the market and they’re grey or white or yellow they’ve used some other process and yeah they’re selling it just under their farm name and they’re selling at farmers markets or they’re selling online. Some of them I don’t know if any of them are doing wholesale but perhaps working with home decor type of retailers.
Tim Young: [00:23:42] So how do customers actually use the hides or these Roger these blankets or what are they.
Sarah Scully: [00:23:48] It sort of depends on the breed in the style but yes sheepskin rugs blankets baby rugs either play mats or sleeping rugs for children you can roll them up and put them in bed and use them as additional support you know under your knees or you got a bad back. I like to sit on mine in the wintertime district but over the couch and sit on it. My my line at festivals is it turns any antique uncomfortable chair into a comfortable chair. You can also put them in your car and use them as a seat cover that way. And then I do have people who ask me you know oh can you make me hats and gloves and mittens and things. And the answer to that is no I’m not a sower or a leather worker. And and my process does not yield what’s called squirreling which isn’t the specific term for a textile grade of sheepskin. So that leather has been 10 mechanically tenderizer sometimes it’s been split like a hair split leather and then the the wools usually been shorn down to a very specific length. So that’s what Shilling is and you’ll see that in coats and boots and all of that. I do not have all the equipment to make shilling so I make sheepskin. I have had some people do crafts and things with the the ones that they buy for me they cut them up and make stuff out of them.
Tim Young: [00:25:11] Okay got it. I think a lot of the ones that you buy at least that are industrially produced aren’t machine washable as are yours machine washboard that we hand washed they can be machine washable again depending on the length of fibre usually I have a home machine especially these days with you know energy star machines they’re not using very much water and the danger is that is it you are using just a small amount of water and a lot of agitation and that can lead to faulting. So I typically recommend that people just spot clean these.
Sarah Scully: [00:25:42] It’s just like taking care of it any other kind of leather object whether it’s the upholstery on her sofa or a handbag or shoes you wouldn’t normally throw those in the washing machine frequently but you might spot clean them if you spilled wine on them or something like that. But yes you could wash these in a bathtub or in a machine on the gentle cycle if if it just got really dirty.
Tim Young: [00:26:07] You know I think a lot of us that have gone from the cubicle life to if some type of farming enterprise are just were initially struck by how little we were aware of where things come from particularly food you know where things come from and then were struck by how unaware our customers are about. But I’m wondering if you’re finding the same thing for non-food for example for sheep skins or for rugs or for Hi. I mean are you seeing the same issue of a lack of awareness and a hunger if you will for wanting something that’s locally sourced.
Sarah Scully: [00:26:43] Absolutely. You know people do give me those same questions we’ve just been over about. OK well what’s the difference between your process and this other process. Because I do charge more than most commercial tanneries because I have to my my labor is more time and physically intensive. Right. So people are curious about those differences. I There’s. There’s no sort of organic certification program for leather so I am not organically certified in any way but I do call my process organic because it is you know it’s a little low organic but of course they want to ask about that question and that’s fine. And a lot of people have never done they’ve never sent their sheep skins off to a tannery before because they are afraid of those chemicals and so they’ll come to me as a first timer and they need to know how to handle the skins after slaughter how to get them fully salt cured so that well it doesn’t fall out how to get them to me etc.. So yeah there’s a lot of customer education is a huge part of what I do every day.
Tim Young: [00:27:53] So where can this business go for you. I mean you were talking about sheep. Well I think you also do goat and alpaca too. But what about cows bison or any other species.
Sarah Scully: [00:28:06] No. And that’s another question I get a lot a lot I wish somebody would do this kind of hair on tanning offer for. Folks who raise dairy cow and cattle so I mentioned that all the lamb takes two to three weeks a cow hide would take over a year with this process. And of course when they’re large and they’re heavy I manipulate all of my skins by hand. I physically have to lift them in and out of the vats and move them around and they’re very heavy when they’re wet cowhide weighs hundreds of pounds when it’s wet. Right. So now you have to go to a mechanized way to move the hides around and do all of that. There is one place I wanted to mention they’re called Jay enough Jay Baker and perhaps we can link to them in the show notes. People are curious. Yes there they’re. Rin England as well.
Sarah Scully: [00:28:58] And they’re one of the few fully veg tan production houses for cattle hides in the world. And they’re you know they’ve been around hundreds of years and they’ve managed to hold on big guy. It’s a fascinating process. So no it would take millions of dollars of investment to do that and that’s not a project I’m interested in taking on. But you know maybe maybe somebody is interested in doing it. There’s there would be a market for it for sure.
Tim Young: [00:29:25] Wow how informative because I didn’t I didn’t realize that I mean that a year to do that with your process and you’re right you would need a huge warehouse space because you’ve got to be able to store all those who are coming to market. dffdIt’d be a big big big undertaking.
Sarah Scully: [00:29:41] Right. And just manipulate him manipulating those hides. You have to have huge machines and you know overhead cranes to lift them and move them into each vat of the process and do all those steps so yeah it would be a massive undertaking. So.
Tim Young: [00:29:57] So what are the what are the goals that you have with your business from your going forward.
Sarah Scully: [00:30:03] You know just just keep it sustainable. Keep being able to pay myself a living wage. It would be nice to get some help at some point. I’m still working on paying down debt that we took on to start this. So as soon as I get some of those loans paid off I’m hoping to hire some part time help people. I do often get requests to have internships or study with me and I’d love to be able to offer that. Unfortunately because of the dangerous nature of my work I can’t afford to take insurance out for for other people so you know. But that’s something to think about in futures is hiring somebody part time to help me and you know maybe looking at grant opportunities there are things to buy some of that sure surely no equipment. That’s another massive investment probably another hundred thousand dollars or something to get the equipment needed to do that process but that would be I think an area of growth because I think the textile market is also very hungry for more organics. You see organic cotton coming in pretty well. You see organic yarn and wool for people who you know so things or knit or whatever.
Sarah Scully: [00:31:16] I think organic shearling would be a great offering to be able to provide much of you mentioned the elements of danger in your business what are the dangerous components of doing what you do Oh just you know some of the machines have sharp surfaces or things I use a flushing wheel like a taxidermist will. So it’s a power blade. You have to be you know you have to be cautious around that my coming iron is it looks like a large laundry Mangalore but it spends automatically at high speed. And I do use acids in the process again. Everything is food grade. That I use in the process but concentrated acid obviously you could burn yourself badly with that. So it’s it’s just like any other kind of physical production process you have to be aware of your machines and safety protocols and that’s also stuff that I learned it could teach somebody but exposing them to that without proper insurance would be nonsensical.
Tim Young: [00:32:21] Yeah. Of course. Now you know you got into this because you when you saw the opportunity on Nicki Port’s website hey is this for you if you if it sounds like you would really like to see this grow and take hold as a methodology and as a business throughout the country. So your opportunities are for you to either expand or is there an opportunity for you to teach other people how to start their own businesses.
Sarah Scully: [00:32:48] You know I don’t have license from her to teach her method. So they would have to work that out with her. But I would love to see some more small tanneries. I only Tan about six hundred to six hundred fifty hides a year which may sound like a lot if if you’re somebody who’s tan hides at home before and maybe you’ve done one or two you know how labor intensive that is. But that’s 650 is a drop in the bucket. That’s one day of production of a larger traditional chrome tannery. And so to get access to this process and I have I have people from Washington state I have people from Texas California sending me their hides and I would love to see some more tanneries on a small scale in those areas serving those markets because I think there is room for five or six of what I’m doing across the country.
Tim Young: [00:33:42] Now that you’ve taken several years now and you’ve made your transition out of what I like what I love to affectionately call the rat race to this more natural way of life. What are the larger more macro farming or food related issues that you find that you really care about and want to see change.
Sarah Scully: [00:34:04] Well I’ve always you know I was a of a child of a hippie and so we always eat well at home we always had fresh produce. We always went to the farmer’s market. But I’m very happy to see that trend growing even more organic food in general buying directly from farmers local farmers. We’re very lucky that here in Vermont there’s a huge local food economy well established. I can I can go to a farmer’s market and buy everything that I need for my or my pantry. Maybe aside from some grains although there there are even people here growing wheat and things like that. But you know I can get meat eggs maple syrup for sweetening any kind of vegetable all different kinds of fruits which you would think you know you can’t grow a lot of fruit up here but actually there’s there’s quite a few varieties that you can grow. So just continuing to support and grow those areas and encouraging more and more people also to have their own backyard garden. I imagine some of your listeners have gotten into farming because they wanted to grow their own food and then they thought oh I can scale this up and grow for other people too. And I think that’s great.
Tim Young: [00:35:16] I think that that’s I think it’s both great and problematic. I think 95 percent of us get into farming because we want to have that lifestyle and we want to produce something for ourselves. I think that is fantastic I wish everybody would do that. The problematic side is to be successful as a business. Normally you start the other way and you go Hey what’s a business opportunity that I can feel passionate about and go succeed. And then I want to go do that. And so the business side of farming unfortunately oftentimes is an affable right.
Sarah Scully: [00:35:48] Yeah. And like I said I had that same struggle too until I kind of found a way to back into a farming service that wasn’t farming because I realized that farming wasn’t quite where my head was.
Tim Young: [00:36:03] Yeah well you’re rocking and rolling now. So you mentioned that 80 percent come from farmers I mean 20 percent come from butchers for the butcher products. Are those stating that you’re turning into products that you sell online right.
Sarah Scully: [00:36:17] Yes we have an online store and folks can shop there we also do a few larger sheep and wool festivals they’re called it. It’s a you know it’s part farm show part auction and part marketplace and we our next show is gonna be the Maryland sheep and wool festival coming up the first weekend of May in Frederick County. Frederick County Maryland I think that’s right. And so that’s our that’s our next big show. But primarily online.
Tim Young: [00:36:50] So working people keep up with you working people find you if they want to go online and check out some of your products.
Sarah Scully: [00:36:57] Yeah. vermontnaturalsheepskins.com. Oh. Again we have an online store. We also have I have a page there on custom tanning and that walks you through all the preparatory steps all that all that customer education stuff that you need. How to Get your stuff to me whether you’re local and you want to drop them off or if you’re not local and you want to ship skins to me. That’s perfectly fine. And price guide and all that I will say that at the time of this recording my stock is a little low because it’s January we’ve just had the holiday market and that’s my biggest season. And I do get skins kind of seasonally. So folks don’t see what they are looking for right now. They could sign up for the newsletter and there’s something to on the website and get first pick. When I have the next batch of skins ready for retail so awesome awesome.
Tim Young: [00:37:48] Okay. Sarah Scully: vermontnaturalsheepskins.com. Sarah thanks so much for being a part of small formation and for everything that you’re doing in small formation.
Sarah Scully: [00:37:58] Oh thank you very much. Tim is a pleasure.
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