Kevin and Marianne McCarthy purchased the farm at 62 H. K. Davis Road in Charlton, MA in August, 2005 after four years of looking for the perfect place to pasture raise dairy sheep and make hay.
They started farming in North Kingstown, RI on the 3.5 acres that was left of the original Signal Rock Farm. They updated the 1860 farm house and improved the land, fixing stone walls and fences, planting perennial flower beds and clearing brush off what had once been pasture. They kept a horse and dogs and had a very large vegetable garden, selling the surplus vegetables at a small farm stand in front of the house.
Although both enjoyed the vegetable garden, Marianne really wanted to work with animals and Kevin wanted to make hay. Marianne did some research on various farm animals and discovered dairy sheep. So while still looking for a farm to buy they went off and bought 3 wet dairy sheep and a ram and began milking them by hand. Marianne and Kevin drank the fresh, raw milk daily and froze what they couldn’t for later use. The raw milk being especially high in protein and vitamins A and D is like an energy drink. By the end of the season Marianne had decided this was what she really wanted to do.
Pasture raising dairy sheep requires a lot of open land for grazing and haying. Kevin and Marianne were having a very difficult time even finding farms to look at in Rhode Island, central Massachusetts and eastern Connecticut, much less one they could afford. Kevin was to keep his day job in Boston, which after 9 years of farming he finally retired from in 2014 but continues to do consulting for. Marianne would be the full time farmer until Kevin could join her. They found a flock of dairy sheep they could buy with excellent genetics for producing lots of milk and great tasting quality lamb meat. The farmer asked them to rent her farm, located in Colrain, MA, two and a half hours from Boston. They worried that it was just too far away from Boston and the farm would be too small for their needs after two or three years.
However, after much frustration in not being able to buy or rent a farm closer to Boston, the decision was made to at least get started in Colrain; they bought out the flock, all pregnant and ready to lamb in April of 2005. Marianne quit her job and moved to Colrain, MA. The farmer agreed to provide assistance, knowledge and support to Marianne during lambing and for a few months after. Kevin worked in Boston all week and went to Colrain on the weekends to help Marianne.
They soon purchased additional ewe lambs from another farmer with very good dairy genetics to increase their flock size, and have these ewes ready to lamb in the spring of 2007 for the milk line. A few months after moving to Colrain they were able to purchase the perfect farm in Charlton, MA, just one hour from Boston.
Ever since the McCarthy’s have been busy pasture raising about 100 Ewes and their offspring, about 200 plus lambs. Both Kevin and Marianne have been haying the fields and selling to the local horse community in addition to filling the barn to feed the ewes for the few months in the winter when grazing is limited. They finished building the milk parlor and milked the ewes one summer in 2007, producing fully inspected Grade A sheep's milk that a local cheese maker turned into cheese for them and they then sold. The farm had a full horse boarding facility in operation which they kept in place where the horse barn manager helped to make hay and care for the sheep, in addition to managing the horses. He has since retired and Marianne and Kevin are now managing the horses in addition to raising the sheep. At this time, they are not milking the sheep or producing dairy products. Marianne has also pursued full use of the sheep in producing and selling wool products, she enjoys coming up with new products every year.