Wooly Amazing: Idaho family sheep operation’s journey into hybrid-regenerative farming
Meet the Hasselstrom family of Winchester Ridge Farms, trailblazers in the realm of agriculture, as they embark on a quest to revolutionize farming. Their mission: regenerative farming.
In the face of rising input costs, American farmers are feeling the financial strain of conventional farming methods.
Six years ago, recognizing the need for change, the Hasselstrom Family began exploring innovative, regenerative techniques in their sheep operation, Winchester Ridge Farms, located on the edge of the Camas Prairie in Idaho. Over the years, adopting a multifaceted approach that prioritizes soil health, crop quality, and financial sustainability. Their dedicated effort produces both high-quality lamb meat as well as some of the finest wool on the market, which they sell to the Pendleton Woolen Mill where it is spun into the fabric used to make the company’s signature wool shirts.
Some of the techniques employed by Eric and Sheila Hasselstrom involve using bio-stimulants, reducing fertilizer rates, incorporating sugars, and delving into the world of soil microbes and crop rotations. Their goal is to strike a balance between organic and commercial farming practices, creating a sustainable hybrid model.
They have also made significant changes in their livestock management. Ten years ago, they transitioned from cattle to sheep, finding them more agile and adaptable in their fields. These sheep help control vegetation growth by favoring tender shoots, making them valuable allies in maintaining their land.
“The cutover timber soil of the Winchester area grows nutrient-rich grasses and forbes that our sheep thrive on in the summer,” the Hasselstroms said on their website. “By grazing the timber pastures along with rotational cover crops on our farm ground, you will find our American White Face lamb some of the mildest, yet most flavorful lamb you have tried.”
Their land management strategy extends to rotational grazing, beginning with Mission Creek Canyon as a strategic starting point. This approach not only enhances soil health but also prepares the land for potential wildfires by reducing forage.
In times of drought, the Hasselstroms have implemented creative solutions like introducing onions into their operation. Since onions are 80 percent water, they help conserve water resources while providing nutrition for their lambs, even in dry conditions.
The farm has also adopted bioactive emissions technology, redirecting tractor exhaust into a Fusion tank and channeling steam into the drill’s fan. This innovative system enhances seeding efficiency and reflects their commitment to sustainability.
Ultimately, the Hasselstroms emphasize profitability per acre over sheer crop growth. Their holistic approach to farming, coupled with their openness to learning from their peers, positions Winchester Ridge Farms as pioneers in the world of regenerative farming.