More than 25 years ago, Susie Everhart became a shepherd. “My then-husband wanted to breed pot-bellied pigs” to sell as pets, but, “after deciding that it was not so easy to convince people to get rid of their dog and get a hog, my dad advised us to try something more practical. Since we were already attending exotic animal auctions, we purchased a trio of exotic sheep.”
The flock grew, and after trying several breeds, they settled on Katahdin Hair sheep, which are raised for their meat, not their wool fiber, “and are known for their mild lamb flavor,” Susie said. Susie is the sole owner and operator of Susie’s Grass Fed Lamb, and she still lives near the farm where she was raised. “I have been involved with agriculture my whole life,” she said. As a child, she worked in the family garden and on the farm. She and her sister “team drove” a tractor, pulling a hay wagon. While in 4-H, she raised and showed cattle, horses, and dogs. As a young adult, she helped her dad in the field, tilling, mulching and raking hay.
These days, Susie gets help from her parents and her sons. “It is wonderful to have my supportive family nearby,” she said. “My mom helps with layout, printing, computers, and all things technical. My dad advises me on things of an agricultural nature. He bales hay, helps plant my cover-crop mixtures, loans me machinery, and lends a hand when I need it.” Her son Jesse helps with sales at the Columbia Farmers Market, and son Luke helps tend to the animals.
Susie has been a vendor at the Columbia Farmers Market for 10 years, providing grass-fed lamb cuts, half lambs, and whole lambs.
She also offers pre-spiced easy to-prepare ground lamb mixtures, including rosemary and garlic-infused sausage with traditional seasonings, a hot, spicy and sweet Merquez sausage, and a tangy, mildly spicy Moroccan flavored sausage. Her gyro meat and fusion-style Indian taco flavored ground lamb are customer favorites. Her objective, she said, is to produce “the healthiest lamb meat possible.” Her lamb contains “a perfectly balanced ratio of Omega-6, Omega-3, and high levels of CLA, according to a fatty acid analysis from Utah State University,” she said. “Omega-3 and CLA are both healthy fats with health promoting qualities.”
Susie believes that good meat begins with good soil. “I have become a student of soil health. I strive to improve my soil, and thus the quality of my grass, the quality of my animals, the meat, and the health of those who consume the meat.”
Rotational grazing reduces topsoil erosion, builds topsoil, and protects water quality. So, the sheep “are moved through a series of paddocks, allowing previously grazed areas to rest and re grow” before the animals return to an area. As a result, “the lambs have access to rapidly growing forage, which contains the most nutrients.” In addition, “I feed no antibiotics or hormones to my animals.” Susie found her way to the Columbia Farmers Market after becoming disillusioned with traditional commodity channels. In 2005, she explored other markets with the help of a sustainable agriculture grant. Direct marketing proved to be more sustainable, and more rewarding.
“I enjoy interacting with my customers at the Columbia Farmers Market, and am glad to find folks that appreciate healthy, locally produced food.”
Susie’s Grass Fed Lamb is also served at The Wine Cellar & Bistro, and at Sycamore Restaurant in Columbia. For more about Susie’s lamb, recipes, specials, and farm happenings, check out Susie’s Grass Fed Lamb on Facebook. For more information on the health and environmental benefits of grass fed lamb, go to eatwild.com.