I am a mother, a teacher and a shepherd. I cannot stress enough how much our children are an integral part of our farm. Certainly they were part of the inspiration and they continue to help in more ways than I ever imagined.
At any given time, there might be kids running around on the farm! Part of why we chose to raise Gotland sheep is because of their medium build, indeed their size makes them a perfect candidate to be around kids. Their temperament is also friendly, docile and inquisitive, which is all that kids can relate to. A few systems are in place to help our children-friendly farm run smoothly.
– The rams are kept behind electric fences at all time, I am always aware of where the rams are at when the children are out in the fields. I also educate them to be cautious around them. An early lesson in ovine anatomy helps them identify, rams, wether and ewes.
– The children know to stay away from the electric fences.
– Some of our sheep are more people driven than others. A few favorites love to come for hugs and cuddles when they see little people. Just like the children seem to find comfort with them, I notice that the sheep like to be around the children. I also notice that some of the lambs really are attracted to little people. Peter will often run along with the flock when they go back to the barn at night!
Years ago when I was in college, I studied the emotional benefits of the relationship between horses or ponies and children. I have not yet found research on sheep and children but my intuition tells me that on some level, there is much to be learned by watching children and sheep or lambs interact.
Much education goes on on the farm. Daily lessons are to be had. On Sunday we moved our finished composted manure into the garden area: “Maman, but how did it turn into soil?”
Personally I love for the kids to just be around and learn as we go, in fact that is how I like to learn myself!