By Jeanine Moyer
Ridgetown – Sarah Brien is a farm girl at heart. But when the farm work is done, she’s quick to trade in her rubber boots for heels and in an industry dominated by men, her stylish dress isn’t the only thing that makes Brien stand out – it’s her passion for sheep farming and desire to run her own farm that makes heads turn.
Raised on a sheep farm in Ridgetown, ON, Brien confesses she didn’t always want to farm. In fact, it was a last-minute decision to attend the University of Guelph for agriculture that changed her future. “Something told me agriculture is what I should do, and I haven’t looked back,” she says.
In an industry with 3,800 sheep farms in the province, Brien and her family knew they had to differentiate themselves to be successful. The family has been proactive importing and exporting sheep genetics, and is part of a progressive purebred sheep breeders’ group interested in international trade.
They were one of the first sheep breeders in Canada to import the unique sheep breed, Texel, from Europe, and have since exported sheep and genetics to Russia with plans to export to Columbia. Each year the Briens travel to the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto to show their animals in competitions and visit with international buyers interested in their sheep genetics.
It’s not just genetics that are strong on the family farm, Sarah and her brother Lee are fourth generation farmers who naturally inherited their both their love for the land and animals as well as their sense of community spirit and involvement from their parents, Gary and Luanne.
Both of Brien’s parents are very active in agriculture and the local community, inspiring her to work alongside them organizing community events, participating in 4-H, and being an ambassador for the sheep industry and the local agricultural society. They’ve even been known to feature their sheep in the local live nativity scene at Christmas.
“Farm life taught us about a bigger sense of community,” says Brien. “Materialistic things aren’t important – it’s the values we learned from our family farm that will guide us.” Brien values her rural lifestyle, appreciating the ability to wander over 150 acres of land, spend with the farm animals and her combined sense of responsibility and affection for their flock.
A recent university graduate, Brien currently works for an agricultural organization, but hopes to return to the farm someday to raise her own flock.
When she’s not working at her off farm job, Brien can generally be found in the barn or spending time on another favourite pastime, shopping. This young sheep farmer even has a bedazzled sheep phone cover, proving that even farm animals can be accessorized with a little bling.