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Fostering Sustainability and Innovation in Agriculture
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Posts By Davina van Buren

Women In Ag: Oogie McGuire’s Knitting Habit Leads to Black Sheep Farm

November 23, 2015 |
Oogie and Ken. Photo credit: JT Thomas

Oogie and Ken. Photo credit: JT Thomas

You’ve heard the term “black sheep of the family”—but Paonia, Colorado’s Oogie McGuire herds a flock comprised entirely of onyx rams, lambs and ewes. At Desert Weyr farm, McGuire raises Black Welsh Mountain sheep, a British breed from the mountains of Wales. They are the only all-black breed of sheep in the world.

It all started when McGuire, an avid knitter, set out to make a medieval Welsh cloak. “I got the sheep, a spinning wheel, and a loom; I learned to weave and made the fabric…however, my mental image of a medieval cloak was not historically accurate. I ended up making an 18th-century lady’s cloak,” she remembers. But by then, McGuire had fallen in love with the breed.

a McGuire inherited the farm when her mom passed away in 1998. After enjoying successful careers in software development, she and her husband decided to leave southern California; instead choosing to come home and farm the land where she’d grown up showing sheep and lambs at the local 4-H. “Mother had a large flock of mixed breeds—what we call a ‘spinner flock,’” explains McGuire. We kept the ones we thought we would like, and ended up culling everything but the Black Welsh. We had to like how they handled and how they behave; they had to taste good and have wool that I like to work with. The Black Welsh had all those qualities.” Read More

Sparks, Nevada Passes New Urban Agriculture Ordinance

November 10, 2015 |
Courtesy of City Manager Steve Driscoll

Courtesy of City of Sparks

Residents of Sparks, Nevada now have a lot more options when it comes to farming inside city limits.

In October, city council members voted unanimously to approve a new urban agriculture ordinance that allows for community gardens to be built on vacant or blighted plots in the city. Citizens will also be allowed to raise chickens and bees on private properties.

According to City Manager Steve Driscoll, the revamp of the city’s zoning codes had been in the works for quite some time. As a result of the housing recession, the city council wanted to take a fresh look at what would make the smartest uses of available land and zoning designations. 

“In the late 1990s, we were building 300-400 new houses a year in Sparks,” says Driscoll. “From 2003–2005, we were building 2,500 houses a year. In 2008, we built zero. We looked at all our building processes and asked, ‘What lessons did we learn? If we ever ramp up and do that number of houses again, what would we do differently?’” Read More