Chris Wilson raises Animal Welfare Approved sheep and laying hens at Clover Creek Farm, near Jonesborough in the hills of northeast Tennessee. Chris grew up on a small farm and has been living on a farm ever since. As a child, Chris said she “grew up thinking everyone had a cow.” Her extensive farming experience, combined with a keen interest in sustainable agriculture, has made Chris a respected leader in the field. In 1999, Chris was named Conservation Farmer of the Year in Washington County, Tennessee–the only woman to ever receive the title.
The Wilsons use rotational grazing practices for their flock of Katahdin/Dorper cross hair sheep. Lambs are allowed to wean naturally and are finished on grass. “We selectively breed our sheep for natural parasite resistance and optimum muscle quality,” Chris explains. “This enables us to offer superior breeding stock, as well as lamb cuts with all the health benefits of grass-finished meat.” Her daughter Sarah, who helps manage the farm, is a registered nurse and works in the afternoons and on weekends.
In addition to managing the herd of sheep, the Wilson family also raises AWA laying hens. The flock of hens at Clover Creek Farm, including Ameraucanas, Welsummers and Cuckoo Marans, are raised outdoors on pasture, where they can perform natural behaviors like running, dust bathing, pecking and scratching for grubs and seeds. Pasture-based management not only provides the highest welfare conditions for the hens, but also produces healthier eggs containing three times as much vitamin E, seven times more beta-carotene, and twice the omega-3 fatty acids as industrial eggs.
When asked why the Wilsons decided to join the AWA program, Chris said, “I have seen so many inhumane ways of raising animals and most people still don’t know how their food is produced. With the AWA label people know how the product was produced, and that kind of sets you apart. I’m proud of how I farm and I want my customers to recognize that I’ve gone that extra step in raising my animals.”
AWA lamb is available for local collection, by mail order and at various retail outlets. For further details, call 423-753-2223.