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Best Of Breed
March 27, 2023

From Wool to Meat, Finnsheep are Incredible Producers

By ML Ball

Photos by Gale Zucker

“I have placed a reservation for six lambs and they are coming in the spring.” This is how Cara Leigh Wilson announced to her husband Sten that they were about to start raising sheep. She said she had found this wonderful breed from Finland called Finnsheep, and since Sten was born in Finland, he was immediately all in. However, what she forgot to mention was how quickly their flock would multiply. Finnsheep are very prolific, with one ewe typically having two to five lambs per year, sometimes six or seven. 

That was 2005 and a lot has happened at the couple’s Point of View Farm in Stanfordville since the arrival of those original six lambs. The Wilsons have now become old hands at breeding and raising Finnsheep, a purebred heritage dual-purpose breed, known for producing top-quality wool and yarn—prized by fiber artists—as well as premium lamb meat—prized by chefs, both professional and amateur. 

Offering two different products—wool and meat—is one of the core reasons the Wilsons have been successful in their endeavor. “One of the advantages of having a dual-purpose breed is that your business is diversified,” Cara Leigh explains. “When Covid hit, the fiber festivals where we normally sell our wool inventory disappeared, but we were able to quickly shift the farm into meat production. If we were only into wool, we would have been in trouble because our market disappeared overnight. Now we’re able to be busy all year round.”

Another reason for the Wilsons’ success has been their single-minded commitment to best practices, from the Western-imported, protein-rich alfalfa they give their gestating and nursing ewes to the way they constantly adjust their feed so it provides the best possible nutrients to their flock. “You are what you eat, which holds true for us as humans and for the animals we’re eating,” says Cara Leigh. 

This dedication to maintaining the highest standards of farming, even though it costs a lot more, permeates the Wilsons’ entire operation, which in turn directly affects the quality of their meat and wool. From the very beginning, they insisted on being a 100 percent biosecure farm. “As far as I know, we are the only scrapie-resistant certified sheep export farm in New York State, which is unusual,” says Sten. (Scrapie is a fatal brain disease of sheep and goats.) “We ask visitors to wear clean shoes that have never been onto a farm, and if need be, we sanitize the shoes before they can be worn on our property.” (My boots were immediately washed upon arrival.) “Our sheep never leave the farm so they are never exposed to outside contaminants, which is how we are able to prevent diseases like hoof and mouth from entering the flock.”

To get an idea of just how good the Wilsons are at what they do, witness the loyal patrons who throng their booth every October at the New York State Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck. “We have customers from Sweden, Finland, Germany, British Columbia, Canada, Hawaii,” Sten says. “As well as our lamb meat, we sell yarn that Cara Leigh has hand-spun and dyed, socks, comforters, sweaters, fleeces…a little bit of everything. People fly in from all over the world, brought together by the common love of sheep and wool.” 

To experience the truly exceptional quality of Finnsheep meat, yarn, and wool products, they can be found at Big Rock Market, the Copake Hillsdale Farmers Market, sheep and wool festivals around the region, the Wilsons’ farm shop, and on their website. You may then soon be asking, why isn’t everyone raising Finnsheep?