Neither Annie Hopper nor Sean Willerford grew up in farming communities, but Annie’s family background in agriculture drove her to dive into farming in 2016, seeking a hands-on way to apply her environmental biology degree. She attended the University of Vermont’s Farmer Training Program and wrote a business plan while raising five sheep. Sean, who started out as a supportive boyfriend with a job at a tech startup, has now joined Annie working at Scuttleship Farm full-time after the two got married on their land in Panton, Vermont.
The couple now raise a flock of 80 Certified Animal Welfare Approved by A Greener World (AGW) sheep and laying hens. In addition to being Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW, the flock of sheep at Scuttleship Farm is Certified Grassfed by AGW, the first—and only—food label in the U.S. and Canada that guarantees food products come from animals fed a 100% grass and forage diet, and raised entirely outdoors on pasture or range. “Sheep do very well on a 100% grass-based system, which is fortunate because that is what our soil is best at growing. Rotational grazing builds topsoil and forage density, improving our land’s water filtration services, which is especially important to us as we farm on the shores of Lake Champlain” says Annie.
Scuttleship Farm’s flock of Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW laying hens are allowed to roam free and enjoy the outdoors, where they can perform natural behaviors like running, dust bathing, pecking and scratching for seeds and insect larvae. The hens are moved regularly to fresh ground, preventing the buildup of pests and diseases and ensuring the land remains healthy and productive. “Pasture-raised eggs draw a consistent customer base to our farm stand,” explains Annie. “We can’t keep them in stock on the shelves. Our eggs’ deep golden yolks have a cult following—a benefit of treating the girls like queens!”
As for their lamb, the couple hopes to expand their production and offer more meat to their customers in the future. “We believe that it is possible to cultivate a future in which cruelty, pollution and deception are not considered the necessary baggage of meat production,” says Annie. “It is our hope that in eating our meat, our customers are able to respect and celebrate the life of the animal that went into its production. Our attention and devotion to natural processes result in a healthier, tastier, more environmentally-friendly meat for our customers.” On their website, the couple also offers AGW-certified sheepskins, organically tanned in Vermont using high-tannin tree bark, free from heavy metals and harmful chemicals usually associated with tanneries. They also plan to have yarn for sale in the future.
Pursuing AGW certifications was important to the couple from the very first business plan they drafted. “When we do right by our animals, we do right by the Earth, and when we do right by the Earth, we do right by ourselves and our neighbors. We want people to care how their meat gets made,” explains Annie. “There is so much misinformation and deliberate ambiguity in the food industry. AGW’s commitment to working only with independent farms as well as their consumer education efforts are both worthwhile and inspiring. It seems like so many “certifications” have sold their souls (and the consumers’ trust) to the industrial farming lobby. AGW is different, and certified farms are committed to pursuing the highest standard in the field.”
Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW pasture-raised chicken eggs, and Certified Grassfed by AGW lamb from Scuttleship Farm are available at various retail locations through Vermont, as well as directly from the farm. To learn more about Scuttleship Farm, visit scuttleshipfarm.com. Contact Annie Hopper or Sean Willerford at firstname.lastname@example.org and 802-870-0554. You can also follow the farm on Facebook and Instagram.