Sheep waiting to be milked at Fernglen Farm. PHOTO/CELIA JASPERS
After 20 years on the farm, most people are thinking about slowing down as they head towards retirement, but that’s not the case for the Ravenwood family out at Fernglen Farm who will appear on this week’s Country Calendar.
Four years ago, Jeff and Shirley Ravenwood made the decision to turn their Homewood sheep and beef farm into a sheep dairy operation after discovering the nutritional benefits and low environmental impact of sheep milk.
While Jeff was initially hesitant to take on such a big project, he’s never been scared to take a risk and try new things.
“It’s very exciting and terrifying in the same breath,” he said.
“It was just crazy, but it ticked all the boxes, apart from common sense!”
He said sheep milk was a value-added product because it’s the only product like it in New Zealand.
Youngest son and farm manager Cameron Ravenwood agreed.
“I did a lot of research about the nutritional qualities. The low environmental footprint made my passion grow and convinced my parents.”
He and brother Ben have both based their Masters’ degrees on sheep milk.
Cameron said they had gotten a lot of exposure through sports teams in New Zealand.
“People are always pleasantly surprised when they try it,” he said.
He hoped viewers would take away a better understanding of its benefits and the animal husbandry involved in producing it from the episode.
“As a family, we really love animals. We take the approach that we’re working together with them, we’re not just taking from them.
“That we’ve got a story they want to share with New Zealand is pretty humbling.”
They recently rebranded, launching with a label which better represents them, Cameron said.
“The new label is a sheepherder with his dog overlooking the sea. To us that symbolises what we are trying to do — love animals, look after the land.”
Their flavoured sheep milk is currently stocked at the Riversdale Store, Masterton New World, The Old Bakehouse, the Solway Pie Shop and Lansdowne Sammies.
They’re also currently working towards releasing a plain sheep milk
The Ravenwood family feature on TV One’s Country Calendar which aired October 20 at 7pm.