August and September are prime time for sheep showing at county fairs and livestock shows. It takes a lot of effort top get ready.
Showing sheep takes more than showing up at a county fair. Before the critters can walk in a ring they must be trained and groomed.
"The first thing is halter breaking. We have to get them used to having a halter on their head and being around people, and walking in a line," Jordy Barnette with Cedar Ridge Farms explained. "The next thing is pretty much washing and preparing to get them show worthy to go in the show ring. That means washing, shearing, trimming. and then blanketing to keep them clean."
It's a spa treatment for sheep. Or maybe a Baaaaaaa treatment?
For twenty years Barnette family members have been showing sheep. Jordy Barnette says they raise various varieties at Cedar Ridge Farms near Russellville: Dorsets, Oxfords, and Suffolks.
"The most satisfaction I get is just seeing my family's growth, the family farm growing, and seeing these kids passing it on to their younger brothers and going on and on," he said.
Kids from local schools are in the Sheep Program. It's part of an Animal Mentorship program he pitched to Jennifer Overbay, who is the FFA Advisor at Morristown East.
"There's three different farmers who have been amazing in our Sheep Program and two in the Dairy Program. They are so generous, so willing, to let these kids come out, let them learn, work, get dirty, get messy, laugh, have fun and at the same time learn some skills that are going to assist them way done the road in their life," Jennifer Overbay said.
Jordy Barnette said, "They'll clean up stalls, they'll wash, they'll do anything because they really love it just as much as we do."
The students take part in every aspect of sheep showing. They walk these animals every day. They halter train them and wash them and then show them to judges.
They win a lot of ribbons at county fairs and livestock shows but that's not the real goal of the Sheep Program.
Jennifer Overbay said, "They can take what they learn in the Sheep Program , responsibility and leadership that they've learned, and apply it to their job one day down the road."
Franklin Barnette said, "It helps keep kids out of trouble, it gives them good moral values, and it's just fun."
He hopes the Sheep Program passes on what he enjoys about raising livestock.
"You get a self satisfaction of your labor. You work hard and you nourish it and take care of it. You grow it up and then when it's done to see the final product it's just a form of pride," he said.
Jennifer Overbay said, "Some of the students you saw here today leading sheep, when they came to us as freshmen they were in a turtle shell. They never expressed anything, they didn't speak to people, and now they've taken on a new role of ownership and responsibility and really got some independence and pride about themselves."
The sheep seem to take a certain pride in how they look after a day at the sheep spa.
The group from Cedar Ridge Farms will be showing sheep at the Tennessee Valley Fair here in Knoxville next month.