Featured Member Story: Evans & Evans Farm
A Farmers' Tale
Joe and Jackie Evans live and work by their motto: "What is good for the land is good for our animals. What is good for our animals is good for our customers."
The couple own and operate Evans & Evans Farm in Andes, NY located in Delaware County. They raise a flock of 100 percent grass-fed Katahdin sheep. The American breed – raised for meat, not milk or wool -- is known for being naturally lean and consistently offering a very mild flavor and proper texture that isn’t too gamey or mushy, Joe says.
"Grass-fed and grass-finished has a taste of lamb that is very appealing," Joe says. "We eat tons of our own lamb and we absolutely adore it."
The farm sits in a valley 2,000 feet up in the Catskills – which Joe refers to as "natural sheep country" --at the top end of New York City’s watershed.
Keeping the city’s water source free of pesticides, fertilizers and run-off of top-soil, and animal waste is a top priority for the Evans family, who practice rotational grazing.
"I know how polluting farms can be," Joe says. "We don’t want to send that pollution down the stream. We feel very strongly about that. Both our kids are young adults who live in New York City. This is their drinking water."
The Evanses aim to protect the environment while providing a healthy and nutritious food source for their animals. They feed and rotate the sheep on fresh pasture throughout the growing season and provide the finest grass hay they can find in the winter. Evans & Evans lambs are free of antibiotics and artificial growth-hormones; there is no corn or GMO grain in their feed.
To minimize the stress on the sheep, Joe and Jackie move the animals carefully with well-trained border collies.
"I have two very skillful dogs – one of them was highly ranked in the world of sheepdog trials -- that do nothing but move sheep," Joe says. "Stress is a real meat killer. When you’re moving sheep as much as we do you really need a dog that can cover the ground and not stress them. We want our sheep to have as easy a life as possible."
Border collies are the reason the Evanses got into sheepherding in the first place. Before they were farming sheep for meat, Jackie and Joe were running Putnam County-based GEESE OFF!, a humane Canada goose control business founded in 2002 that they still operate today.
The Evanses, with the help of dog handlers, use specially trained border collies to clear geese from areas where they have become a problem. Border collies have been bred for more than 300 years to herd sheep in the hilly areas of Britain, says Joe, who is originally from Wales and hails from a family of livestock farmers.
Shepherds harness the collies’ hunting instinct with a sequence of voice commands and whistles to gather and drive sheep over vast distances. The Evanses train the dogs to use those same skills for goose control.
In 2008 they bought their first four Katahdin ewes to help perfect the collies’ training. Those sheep brought about the need for more land and a barn in which to house them in winter. This prompted the Evanses to buy a small 17-acre rock and slope farm in Patterson, NY (Putnam County).
They borrowed a ram for breeding and used the new property as a base to start a grass-fed flock. The sheep grazed on more than 150 acres of nearby abandoned farmland.
In 2012, the Evanses bought two high pedigree rams. With their help, those four Katahdin ewes increased to 50 breeding ewes, which produced 100 lambs.
"We ended up with far too many sheep and too many lambs for our little plot of land," Joe says. "It wasn’t good for them to be confined across the winter in such close quarters."
The couple had looked around the Catskills back in 2002 "and always had it in our heads that it was a great place," Joe says. "We got really interested in the quality of the meat, in grass-feeding. We finally decided, ‘Right, let’s set up a proper farm.’" They bought the 107-acre Andes property, a former dairy farm, in January 2014.
Evans & Evans is a two-person (Joe and Jackie) operation right now. "We barter hay for our sheep throughout the winter in exchange for helping our neighbor in manning his tractors for many hours at hay-making time across the summer," Joe says.
The Evans & Evans lambs are slaughtered and processed at USDA-inspected facilities. "Their last moments on this earth have to be good moments, which is why the slaughterhouse we use is so important as well," Joe says. "We nurture them from womb to slaughterhouse."
Evans & Evans lamb can be bought as whole or half freezer lambs. The farm also sells individual, vacuum-sealed cuts that are flash frozen. They include racks, legs, leg steaks, sirloin steaks, loin chops, shoulder chops, shanks, organs, liver or ground. Mutton is sold as sausage.
Their lamb is currently being bought wholesale by the Tarlow Group in Brooklyn, NY. The group consists of the butcher shop, Marlow & Daughters along with restaurants and bars including Marlow & Sons, Diner NYC, Roman's, Reynard at The Wythe Hotel and Achilles Heel.