Shady Hill Farms, maker of High Meadow Skin Care, is a sustainable family sheep farm located in Newbury, Ohio.
Our 52 acre farm has been in continuous operation for over half a century. Ben Calkins has been raising Polled Dorsets continuously here since June 1964, making him one of the most established and long standing Dorset Breeders in America.
Shady Hill runs two flocks of sheep with two distinct breeds — Polled Dorset and Suffolk. We raise them for their wool and the lanolin that comes from processing it. The wool goes to knitters. The lanolin is used to create our superior skin care products, including our flagship product, High Meadow Skin Cream.
Sheep are happiest and healthiest outdoors, so our farm consists primarily of prime pasture land, fenced against intruders, and surrounded by dotted with wooded acreage left in its natural state for the health of the land. Our soils are rich and fertile, and for three seasons of the year, provide ample feed for our sheep and lambs.
How It (The Calkins Family Sheep Farming) All Began
Ben Calkins is the fifth of 9 children – four boys and four girls – born to Dr. Virginia and Evan Calkins.
In the early 1960’s the family moved from Massachusetts to a sprawling century house in Hamburg, New York. Each of the nine children were given pets to take care of in order to learn responsibility. Ben was given a Jersey heifer, “Annabelle”, which soon had to be sold as she was growing much faster than her master!
Not wanting to discourage “Benny,” Dr. and Mrs. Calkins purchased a Polled Dorset ewe for him in June 1964. The ewe – named “Susan” – was purchased from Milton D. Cole of South Wales, New York, one of America’s first Polled Dorset breeders.
Ben started raising Polled Dorsets in 1964 and his brother Hugh joined him thereafter. Eventually brothers Geoff and Tim joined in.
Ben started calling the farm “Shady Hill,” because the sheep lived in a small shed on the hill behind the house, which was shaded with many trees of all kinds.
Ben and his brothers were very involved with 4-H and with the Erie County Fair, then America’s largest county fair and still near the top, averaging over 1 million attendees.
Establishing the Shady Hill Farm’s Polled Dorset Flock in Ohio
By about 1990 Ben had bought the 50 undeveloped acres on Music Street in Newbury, Ohio, using most of his life savings.
The land was perfect for the sheep farm. Immediately to the rear of it was Punderson State Park. Very rural area, close to Cleveland.
Ben put in a 800 foot driveway and hired Josiah and Alan Miller, Amish builders, to build a 48-by-80 pole barn at the end of the driveway. The barn was modeled after barns Ben had admired at Red Oak Farm in Kensington, NH.
Ben also had W.B. (“Bill”) Fowler build a wonderful house for the family.
The rear of the property was wooded and never used for the sheep. They pastured most of the front half of the property for the sheep and used what was left for hay making.
Once the sheep were all at the home farm, we gradually increased the size of the original Polled Dorset flock, which traced back to the sheep that Shady Hill Farms started with back in Hamburg, NY.