Hello Fiber Folk! I am so pleased to offer a two part interview with Kim Goodling, owner and shepherd at Vermont Grand View Farm! Since adopting a (temporary) flock of our own, I have been on the lookout for other shepherds and information about keeping our sheep safe, happy, and healthy. I found Kim through Instagram–beautiful photos of Gotlands and farm life, folks!–and it just happened to be at a moment when she was launching some new online course materials about adopting a flock of sheep. Her course covers fencing and shelter, plus a module on choosing a breed that’s right for you! But that’s not all . . . and as I dug deeper into conversations with Kim, I came to really appreciate her farm know-how and her deep dedication to helping others find their way with sheep. She even offers phone and in-person consultations for new shepherds. Quite a resource, I must say! Plus, farm stays, Gotland sheep, and so much more! So, please enjoy the interview and beautiful photos (all courtesy of Kim Goodling and photographed by her daughter, Anna Estelle) and then stay tuned for the podcast next weekend–I’ll be interviewing Kim and we’ll chat about sheep, fiber, and even maple syrup!
KTS: You have quite a bustling business–farm stays, camps for kids (and parents), online classes–how do you decide what directions to move the business? Do you have a grand plan (a “war board” in a kitchen, barn or office) or do you feel that you create new trends as the inspiration strikes you?
Kim: Most small farms in Vermont diversify to make the most of every season. Our farm is no different from any other farm, in that we have lots going on. Much of our work follows the seasons-we make maple syrup and lamb in the spring. Offer Farmstay vacations and on farm workshops in the summer and fall. We attend sheep and wool festivals in the fall to sell our yarn and to promote our sheep. And we rejuvenate and do business planning in the winter. Our farm has evolved through the years. Honestly, there never was a master plan. Our main goal, many years ago, was to provide healthy food for our family of five as well as a lifestyle centered around agriculture. As our children got older it evolved into a desire for our then homeschooled children, to be a part of a family business. We also wanted them to fully experience farm life and the life and death cycle.
If there is one thing that has remained constant on our farm, it would be that we have always been a center of education. When our children were younger, we offered summer camps for young children and their moms. My children lead the children’s camp and I lead the mom’s camp simultaneously. Through the years, we have offered numerous on farm workshops and courses in things like fiber processing, natural dyeing, spinning wool, and raising sheep.
KTS: What prompted you to begin offering an online shepherding course (Farm School)? Why move beyond your popular blog and individual consulting work?
Kim: A new barn prompted me to begin offering online courses. This past winter, I knew that a new barn project was in the plan for this summer. I knew that we needed cash to pay for the building project. I responded to an ad on instagram and about a week later, I was knee deep in taking an online course on how to design your own online course. I felt this was a perfect extension of my blog and the work that I do already on our farm. It is a perfect match for me as an educator and a shepherd. It took me the entire winter to work my way through the 12 week course. It has been a tremendous learning curve for me. I have been stretched and challenged in ways I never would have imagined in creating these online courses. Designing and hosting online courses is a costly and very time consuming effort. My desire is to create an online community where sheep people can gather, share, learn, and encourage one another regardless of where we are in our shepherding journey.
KTS: Who are your biggest crafting influences/inspirations?
Kim: Aha! My biggest crafting/artist influence is Irena Levkovich and Jenny Hill. Look them up! They are two AMAZING fiber artist who create felted garments. I have a secret ambition to one day find time to really invest into my felting and to create amazing felt garments like they do. It is my dream to take a class from Irena. I have followed her felt work for several years now. I love felting garments and actually at times find my self having to suppress my desire to felt because farm chores get in the way. Jenny Hill was a woofer on our farm about 5 or was it 6 years ago. As part of our work agreement, every evening, after all the farm work was done, she would work along side of me in my studio. I taught her about natural dyeing, processing wool, weaving, and finally felting. I saw her eyes light up when she made her first felted scarf. Jenny has now far surpassed me in my abilities as a felt artist and has gone on to become an accomplished fashion designer and artist.
KTS: What’s your best sheep story? Farm story?
Kim: Oh my….do I have to just tell ONE? There are so many…..
The heartfelt story-the first time that we lost a new lamb….it was born breech and I was not there to help pull it out quickly. It was coming out back feet first and it suffocated in the birth canal. I stood holding his still warm body, sobbing. My 12 year old daughter came out and comforted ME, reminding me that this was how farm life was….there would be sorrows mixed in with the blessings.
The near miss story-The time that we had our first flock of Gotland sheep hauled 3,000 miles to get to our farm from Oregon. They arrived safely to our little New England village. We met the transporter in town to load the sheep onto our truck to drive them up to our farm. As we were moving them from his trailer to our truck, one ram got lose and took off running down Main Street. It took four adults, 2 farmers, one engineer, and one town clerk, 45 minutes to catch him. After a jaunt through the elementary school parking lot, through the church yard and the post office, we cornered him on the porch of the town office building where we finally got hold of him.
The funny story-The 5 year old from New York City who had never been on a farm before and helped collect eggs from our chicken coop. She held a freshly laid egg in her hand, took it to her grandmother and said, “Look Grammy, the chicken laid an egg and cooked it too!”
The sad story-The young couple who came to stay on our farm to grieve the recent death of their newborn daughter and to purchase a little antique wooden box to put her ashes in.
The story of encouragement and faith…My middle daughter stood in the barn helping me with a laboring ewe. This ewe had a breech lamb and this time we were there to help. My daughter held the ewe while I pulled. I told my daughter that we had to pull fast so the lamb would not suffocate in the birth canal. I told her to hold the mom so I could pull. My daughter looked at me and said, “It’s ok mommy. I have faith in you. I know you can pull this lamb out.” Can you guess what we named the ewe lamb? Faith.
I could go on and on and on with stories……
KTS: How do you manage a good work/life balance?
Kim: My work is my life and my life is my work. Sometimes I have to pinch my self to believe it is all real. I think about how fortunate I am to live where I do and to have the work that I do. As my husband used to say to our children….we live VACATION all the time!
KTS: Any advice for folks who might want to start an online course of their own?
Be prepared to work harder than you have ever worked before. It’s a beast!
KTS: Where can folks find your shop? or find out more about you?
I have an online shop with my yarn and wool products. You can find it on our farm website www.grandviewfarmvt.com. Folks can find out more about me by reading my blog, (www.livingwithgotlands.com, or visiting my online course site www.vermontfarmschool.com or by booking a stay with us!
KTS: What’s new on the horizon for Grand View Farm?
What’s new? A new 20×30 pole barn is new! That means I can keep more sheep through the winter and that is just fantastic!! This fall I am launching a FREE online training series called, “4 Steps to Profitable Shepherding.” This will be followed by my first large online course which helps small farms with all things marketing, like finding a niche so they stand out among the competition, and building relationships and connections with customers so they will come back time and time again.
I also look forward to taking more tour groups to Gotland!
I do have one other new exciting thing going on….but am just not quite ready to share about that yet! One must have some secrets.
Thanks so much, Kim, for sharing your farm and stories with us! I love meeting new people (and sheep!): if you are an indie dyer, a hand spinner, a shepherdess, a small flock owner, a mill operator, or a wool trader, I would love to feature your work on this site. Please get in touch via email or Ravelry by clicking the “About” tab (above) Happy knitting! 🙂