A Leap of Faith at Wing and a Prayer Farm
December 18, 2015
High on a hill off a dirt road in Shaftsbury is Wing and a Prayer Farm, where Tammy White lovingly raises Angora goats, rescued alpacas, and Shetland, Cotswold, Merino and Cormo sheep. The animals aren’t raised for the freezer—but rather for fiber.
White, a fiber farmer and homesteader, dotes on her animals, who each have sweet names like Thimble, Blossom, Thelma, Louise, Olivia, Peppermint Princess, and Argyll. In all, White has 70 animals on her 20-acre farm, where she has lived with her husband, Jim, since 1988.
Twice a year, she shears her alpacas, goats and sheep, selling the yarn and fiber on Etsy, in select stores, and at the local fiber festival.
“Being a fiber farmer is the best way I can be a farmer,” says White, 50. “We’re not in the practice of culling—that would be too hard on my heart.”
White was born in California, moved to the Berkshires at age 10, and earned a college degree in business and marketing. She brought home her first sheep in 2004 after her children expressed interest in raising them. Her children—now in their 20s—were homeschooled a decade ago and wanted sheep to learn how the animals could help manage the grazeable land.
Eventually, the family started adding alpacas, goats, horses, turkeys, and honeybees to the farm. They even have an American Guinea hog (named Peppermint Princess), as well as three dogs and seven cats.
What makes White so inspirational is that she is a self-taught farmer who has learned from books and lots of dedication and practice.
“This property is what I have and I knew I didn’t want to waste it, which is why I wanted to farm. I’m always seeking tutelage and I’m tenacious,” says White. “We didn’t have a computer until the kids were in high school, so we always relied on books to learn. I’ve made mistakes, but the animals have taught me well.”
A Shepherdess and Proprietress
On Instagram, Wing and a Prayer Farm has a large following—more than 7,790. Every day, White posts photos of her animals, family gatherings, fresh eggs, colorful yarn, and fun videos of life on the farm. Her posts generate anywhere from 200 to 400 likes a piece. White’s Instagram feed—where she describes herself as “Shepherdess/Proprietress in Shaftsbury, Vermont”—is how I first learned about Wing and a Prayer Farm. Her thoughtful, uplifting posts made me want to meet White and visit her southern Vermont farm.
In person, White is warm, talkative, and energetic. When I arrived, she offered me a pair of mud boots before showing me around the farm on a mild December morning. A Shetland sheep named Argyll followed us around while White’s Springer Spaniel tossed a tennis ball at our feet. Dressed in brown overalls, a flannel shirt, and black mud boots, White pointed out that the brown and white wool hat she was wearing was made with fiber from Argyll.
“I’m actually a poor knitter but I’m good on my feet, and I have a lot of energy,” she says with a laugh. “These days, I want to clean the paddock and be active. It’s not my time to be a fiber artist as much as it is to be a farmer.”