Owner Philip Snider, General Manager Michael Hettleman and Farm Superintendent Sherman Brown raise Certified Animal Welfare Approved by A Greener World (AGW) sheep at Foxwood Farm in Elk Creek, Virginia. The Foxwood Farm team has decades of combined farming experience, now culminating in the daily operation of Foxwood Farm.
Consisting of 450 acres, Foxwood Farm is spread across two farms. “We’re nestled in the rolling hills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and a mile and a half of Elk Creek runs through the property,” says Michael. “In addition to being one of the larger lamb producers on the East Coast, we offer daily trout fishing on the property in our stocked stream, and our lodge is a popular venue for weddings and events.”
The Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW sheep at Foxwood Farm are managed outdoors on pasture without the use of subtherapeutic antibiotics, hormones or animal by-products. “We currently manage 900 Dorper ewes,” says Michael. “Dorpers perform well in management-intensive grazing systems like we use here on the farm. We rotate our lambs daily, constantly moving from paddock to paddock. This type of management ensures the sheep always have fresh grass to eat—and have room to run.” The Foxwood Farm team also choose to raise Dorpers because of its suitability to the climate in Virginia—the easy-care breed has a short, light ‘hair’ coat sheds in late spring and summer and doesn’t require shearing—and because it is known to produce lamb with a delicious mild and sweet flavor.
The most important animal husbandry practices for Foxwood Farm revolve around the daily and regular care and management of the animals. “We check all the sheep daily,” says Michael. “We take good care to make sure the rams are only in for certain period of time, and we are constantly checking throughout the entire breeding cycle—doing ultrasounds and keeping track of the animals. We have excellent quality, registered rams, which is another important piece of our operation.”
The Foxwood Farm team chose to pursue AGW certification largely because the farm’s management practices already aligned with AGW standards. “Our protocol fit with the protocol of AGW, and we felt that AGW certification would be an important way to show consumers that high-welfare, sustainable management is central to our operation. Our objective is to become the leading source for lamb on the East Coast, and we’re looking to sell lamb in grocery stores, restaurants, other retail outlets. AGW certification fits our marketing strategy because the certification is standards-backed and representative of the best practices in the industry.”