Lamb isn’t just for the holidays anymore.
“When I was growing up, lamb was for Easter,” said Henry Dorough, who owns HD Farm in Eastaboga.
“People want lamb,” he said, with a smile. “We were recruited to sell at Pepper Place about six years ago by farmers I’d worked with to help build their operation – the rest is history. People were asking them constantly if they knew where to get good lamb.”
HD Farm offers premium cuts of rack of lamb, rib and loin chops, leg of lamb (traditional bone-in and boneless), ground lamb, shank, roasts and soup bones. Henry and Paula Dorough, both county extension agents, own and work their 93-acre Eastaboga farm when they’re not at their day jobs.
At least once a month, the couple carries two freezers of individually packaged lamb products to Pepper Place.
“And we pretty much sell out,” Henry Dorough said, with a chuckle. “Our freezers are absolutely filled to the top … and by the end of the day, they are empty. In addition to the Market at Pepper Place, they sell lamb and lamb products at their farm to a couple of restaurants and offer whole lambs for custom processing to customers within a 100-mile radius.
Many customers like lamb because it’s known for being heart-healthy, containing protein, iron, vitamins and minerals. Some make a special trip to buy HD Farm’s lamb treats for pets.
Loving the farm life
The Doroughs are at the Market at Pepper Place at least one Saturday morning each month, or whenever HD Farm has plenty of processed lamb. Their next outing is Saturday, Sept. 14.
“Our butchers were already swamped before the pandemic,” Henry Dorough said. “And COVID certainly changed everything including demand for our products and our ability to deliver lambs to the butcher when we need them processed. We’re only able to carry a few sheep in at a time, so we’re kind of limited on supply. We have the capacity to go to Pepper Place twice a month, but we don’t have the processing capacity … so we go once a month.”
Working at HD Farm and caring for their 52 Katahdin sheep – 50 ewes and two rams – keeps the couple busy.
That’s how the Doroughs like it. The farm is the culmination of a dream and is a natural fit for both. Henry is coordinator of the Talladega County office of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, where he’s served 32 years in various roles. Paula has worked 28 years in New York and Georgia as a county extension agent.
“It’s very demanding on us,” he admitted. “Lots of nighttime work and lots of weekend work. At the farm, we come home every afternoon and we work until dark. From daylight to dark on the weekends, we’re out working on the farm. Some parts of the year are busier than others.”
Putting their farming skills to good use, the Doroughs take pride in raising healthy sheep that provide those hearty meals. Developed in Maine and named for the state’s highest peak, Katahdin grow hair in the winter, instead of thick wool, and shed their coats in warm weather. Katahdin, which don’t need shearing, have less lanolin in their skin than other breeds.
“That’s why they produce a milder, less-gamey tasting meat,” he said. The Katahdin at HD Farm live a healthy life, meandering in the fields and grazing on organic, nutrient-filled grasses.
“We give them a mineral supplement that is key to having a balanced diet,” said Paula, who hand-feeds the sheep from a bucket. “And they love it.”
In addition to caring for their animals, the Doroughs sow sunflowers on a couple of acres. For the past two years, they have invited customers to spend time at the farm. Families can bring a picnic, watch the grazing sheep and cut sunflowers to take home. Photography buffs take pictures of the vast field of golden sunflowers, some as large as dinner plates.
With their busy lives and full-time jobs, the Doroughs said that sheep farming is a nice way to use their property.
“I enjoy farming,” Henry Dorough said. “My entire career has been agriculture, and I’ve always had an interest. We really can’t grow the farm to where we’d like it to be yet … we’ve got room to grow many more animals than we have, but we just don’t have the time with our jobs.
“When I retire, I’ll have a whole lot more time to work on the farm and to grow the flock to where I want it to be,” he added. “We’re confident locally, where we are at, we’ve got enough demand here at the farm and Pepper Place. We can grow the farm to meet that demand.”
A good cut of lamb needs only a few seasonings to make an excellent meal, Henry Dorough said.
“Think about a good steak,” he said. “If you have a good product, you add seasonings or a rub, maybe, to bring out the flavor. Once it’s cooked the way you like it, it shouldn’t need anything else. You should be able to put it on the plate and enjoy it as is.”
Try HD Farm’s Savory Ground Lamb recipe
1 pound lean HD Farm ground lamb
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ cup chopped parsley
1 medium onion, finely chopped
½ teaspoon allspice
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ cup breadcrumbs
6 ounces feta cheese
Combine all ingredients and roll lightly into balls. Do not press hard, or the meat will dry. Brown on all sides in an iron skillet on medium heat until carmelized. Serve as a main entrée. No sauces are needed.
Enjoy a Sweet Grown Alabama Harvest Day at HD Farm
Address: HD Farm, 1160 Brickstore Road, Eastaboga, Alabama 36260
Hours: By appointment.
(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)