Grown Here at Home: The sheep experiment

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PULASKI CO., Va. (WDBJ) As a farmer, you can't always rely on textbook information. Sometimes you have to put new ideas to test.

Cecil King and Adam Fariss are two farmers meeting for the first time.

Cecil owns sheep and Adam is in charge of a beautiful vineyard in Pulaski County.

What could a sheep farmer and a vineyard owner possibly do for each other? Well, they're putting a theory to test.

“This time of year we're thinning the canopy. We're doing a lot of canopy management, and we'll be pulling leaves away from the fruit zone for better air circulation and sunlight penetration. So we'll be out here for many hours a day pulling leaves from the fruit zone so that the air can get in there, the spray can penetrate and sunlight can make contact with the fruit,” said Adam Fariss, owner of Iron Heart Winery.

“What we're hoping is that the sheep will come through and do that for us because they're right at eye level with the fruit zone. So the intent is for after being here for a couple of days to try and pluck the leaves away from the grapes and do what we would normally be doing by hand,” Adam explained.

With any experiment, it could turn out any way.

“It's a bit of a gamble, so a little bit of anticipation and excitement, but a slight amount of fear,” said Adam with a laugh.

“We also don't really know what the impact of the sheep is going to be on the vineyard. So they can be pushing vines. They may eat some fruit,” he explained.

How did the experiment go?

On day one it took some time for the sheep to get acclimated to the land, so they didn't care too much about the leaves on the vines.
But by day two, that's when the magic started happening.
The sheep were able to expose the grapes without eating them and causing little damage.

Here's what Adam explained. There are a lot of textbooks and grape grower guides out there, but when it comes to new ways of doing things, sometimes you just have to get out there and try it. And in this case, it worked!