“Value-added” applies to sheep at Four Hills Farm

Posted on Jun 24, 2013
Jim Mansfield decided to practice what he was preaching as a marketing specialist at the Kentucky Department of Agriculture. He stopped raising cattle on his Mercer County farm and turned to a special breed of sheep to produce branded lamb for retail and wholesale markets. That’s called “value-added” agriculture, which Mansfield was promoting in his role as a division director at the Department of Agriculture.

Today, “New American Lamb” is a hit. That trademark brand identifies lamb from Katahdin sheep that  are raised on a forage-based diet with no antibiotics. The meat is gourmet quality, quite tender with a mild flavor that is tasty with or without spices.

“New American Lamb” is sold at the Whole Foods Markets in Louisville and Lexington, as well as seven other supermarkets in Kentucky and Ohio. It’s also served at a dozen restaurants and soon, Mansfield will have direct sales from his Four Hills Farm, which is near Salvisa, a tiny community between Harrodsburg and Lawrenceburg.

(For information on where to find New American Lamb, go to www.fourhillsfarm.com.)

After much research, Mansfield chose to raise Katahdin sheep, which are named after a mountain in Maine, where the breed was developed in the 1950s. Katahdin are not grown for wool; just for meat. They can withstand heat and humidity, require no shearing, are parasite-resistant, often produce twins or triplets and are good mothers. They shed their winter coat naturally, which contributes to their mild flavor due to no lanolin production from wool. They are smaller than traditional American-raised wool sheep, and therefore their roasts and chops are smaller.

Jim Mansfield and Katahdin sheep at his farm in Mercer County.
Jim Mansfield and Katahdin sheep at his farm in Mercer County.

“The meat is not gamey,” said Mansfield. “This lamb is known for tenderness and a mild flavor. Katahdin are very hearty and easy to care for.”

Mansfield’s lambs are processed at Marksbury Farm Market in Garrard County. They sell his lamb at their store and to restaurants they deal with. He contracts with a food distributor to deliver to the supermarkets, some as far away as Columbus, Ohio. “New American Lamb” also is popular at the upscale Dorothy Lane markets in the Dayton, Ohio area.

On the production end, to meet the increasing demand for his lamb Mansfield has contracted with 25 other producers, most in Kentucky but also a few in Tennessee and Virginia. The producers must adhere to his strict production standards. Mansfield buys the lambs from them and moves them down the chain.

Mansfield says he divides his time almost equally between production and marketing. The business has grown every year since he started about 10 years ago, he added.

His web site (www.fourhillsfarm.com) also features recipes and a photo gallery of the farm. There’s some social media elements, and more will be in the works.

“We want to engage with consumers,” said Mansfield. “We have a gourmet quality product that is delicious and healthy. And it is produced on family farms. We want consumers to know that.”

Tagged Post Topics Include: Garrard County, Jim Mansfield, Katahdin sheetp, Kentucky, Kentucky Department of Agriculture, Lexington, Louisville, Maine, Marksbury Farm Market, Mercer County, Sheep, Tennesse, Whole Foods Market