Green Acres: Life on a Sheep Farm

Are your tomatoes the talk of the neighborhood? Co-workers manifest the obvious signs of zucchini-envy every time you drop a load off on the kitchenette counter? Then you’ve probably imagined elevating your agrarian talents to that most seductive of stages—a hobby farm. And like most reveries, the reality of running a farm can be far from dream-like.

But there are those few brave and intelligent souls who successfully combine farming with a conventional life. Enter the world of Dr. Carey Pigman. The 1980 Edgecliff graduate owns a small, flourishing farm in central Florida where he grows grapes that he stomps into wine and raises, of all things, sheep—an odd choice for someone named Pigman. “I know it’s a little ironic, isn’t it?” What’s even more astonishing is that he does all this in addition to his two day jobs—as an emergency medicine physician and a state representative in the Florida House.

This is a doctor who does not dither—but he did dream of a farm of his own one day. “I grew up in rural Ohio and raised sheep through 4-H,” he says. “When my wife and I moved to Florida, we had our eye on a small farm. We bought it. And I mentioned to her there was no way I was going to mow pasture. So I came home one day and somehow she had gotten a ram from a friend of ours.”

What began with one ram soon became a flourishing enterprise on just 10 acres. “We can sell everything we raise and we typically have 20-30 ewes at a given time and may have one-and-a-half to two lambs per ewe.”

One would think, that the Sunshine State would not be kind to animals that carry around their own sweaters. “These are not shearing sheep, they’re hair sheep. They’re hot-weather tolerant, parasite resistant and they shed.”

Just as one sheepish misconception is cleared up, though, another agricultural misassumption crops up. Because on this Florida farm, orange juice isn’t the beverage of choice. Wine is. “I’ve got like 90 vines producing about 500 pounds of grapes a year. The vines are about 6 years old and starting to show some maturity. It’s just another labor of love. Like everything else, you wish you had more time.”

So what’s harder—herding sheep or politicians? “They both can involve bellwethers,” he says. “Periodically when that term comes up I like to remind people, ‘You know we are talking about a castrated sheep, right?’ ”

As far as next season’s forecast, Pigman is seeking a good red wine to pair with those lamb chops. “I was a chemistry major, and with Florida’s climate and soil conditions, it’s all about getting the ph levels and micronutrient levels right. My wife has granted me a room to tinker in. It’s a combination wine room/laboratory. I’m not there yet. My whites have reached a really good flavor, but my reds I’m not quite satisfied with yet.”