Woodford County sheep farm’s main customer is Whole Foods
By Chris Aldridge
Kentucky Ag News
If you purchase domestically raised lamb at a Whole Foods grocery store in Ohio or Kentucky, you will get a Kentucky Proud product from Four Hills Farm in Woodford County.
“Our farm is the source of the only American lamb sold at Whole Foods in Ohio and Kentucky,” said Lynn Pruett, Four Hills’ vice president and media director. “What I like about it the most is we take Kentucky lamb, sell it in Ohio, and bring that money back to the state.”
Pruett said talks are ongoing with Whole Foods to expand distribution of what the retail giant calls “local lamb” west to Indiana and the Chicago area, and north into Michigan.
“Our main customer is Whole Foods; we’ve been selling to them about 15 years,” Pruett said. “When we started out, we sold to the two Kentucky stores (in Lexington and Louisville). They said, ‘Hey, we like your product! Let’s go to more stores.’ We said, ‘Ahhh! We don’t have enough product!’”
So Four Hills recruited about 15 other lamb-producing partners in Kentucky.
“We have a network of producers here in Kentucky who sell us lamb so we can fill our orders, plus we produce our own,” Pruett said, noting Four Hills raises about 100 ewes (female sheep) and 150 total. “We had a market for those producers, and we needed them, so it was a great mutual benefit. They raise their lambs to our specifications.”
Four Hills CEO Jim Mansfield has been pasture raising Katahdin sheep since 2005, when the farm had locations in Mercer and Boyle counties. Mansfield calls the American heritage breed “New American Lamb.” They thrive on a forage-based diet and produce mild flavored, gourmet quality meat.
Michael Piehl developed the Katahdin breed at his farm in Abbot, Maine. Mansfield’s cousin has since become part-owner of the farm, which is named for nearby Mount Katahdin at the northern end of the Appalachian Trail.
“Katahdin has really taken off in Kentucky,” Pruett said. “Kathadin is a hair sheep, not wool, so they don’t have to be sheared.
“It’s a really good meat sheep. They’re … sustainably raised on pasture. We don’t do feed lots. The grass here in Bluegrass area is fantastic for them.
“Lamb a good alternative to other proteins,” she added. “It has great flavor, and it’s local. We process at Marksbury, a local processor (in Garrard County).”
On its website, www.FourHillsFarm.com, the farm sells frozen whole lambs for those who want to cook it at home.
If you would like to try Four Hills’ lamb but would rather not cook it yourself, you can taste it in gourmet dishes at The Kentucky Castle near Versailles or try a lamb burger at Stella’s Kentucky Deli in Lexington.
“Lamb is not as well known a product as beef, but we’ve developed a strong industry here,” Pruett said. “We’ve managed to stay in business as long as we have because we have an opportunity to continue to grow, a great climate, and wonderful producers.”