Four Hills Farm, located in Versailles, Kentucky, is a thriving business, raising sheep and marketing fresh lamb year-round that is sold in Whole Foods stores and restaurants throughout Kentucky and Ohio.
“We started in 2009 selling lamb in about two stores. Now we sell in 14 stores, but we’re still learning and our journey to entrepreneurialism hasn’t stopped,” says president and founder Jim Mansfield. Together with Vice President Lynn Pruett and a few staff, Jim raises sheep and markets approximately 2,000 American Katahdin lambs. The lambs are raised on pasture with some supplemental feed. The end result is excellent, gourmet-quality meat.
Katahdin sheep are an American Heritage breed that was developed by Michael Piel of Abbot, Maine. The breed is named for Mount Katahdin, the highest mountain in Maine. Mr. Piel had a flock of several thousand and spent over twenty years cross breeding sheep to develop the Katahdin breed.
The Kathadin sheep we raise are hardy and thrifty. They have been refined through years of breeding to produce mild flavored, gourmet quality meat from a pasture based production system. Katahdin sheep are an American Heritage breed. We are call our Katahdin lamb “New American Lamb” because we believe they are a unique and up-coming breed offering many favorable attributes to the American lamb market. These sheep thrive on a forage based diet, lamb outside on their own, and, most importantly, produce an excellent gourmet quality meat.
By crossing Caribbean haired sheep that naturally shed their winter coats with English wooled breeds that had good meat qualities, Michael Piel of Abbot, Maine developed a composite breed that produced excellent quality meat and required no shearing. Katahdins have proven to be a highly adaptable breed that is in demand throughout the Americas. Farmers like them because of their hardiness and easy care qualities. Consumers like them because of the excellent quality, mild flavored gourmet lamb they produce.
About 10 years ago, Four Hills Farm contacted SCORE when they found themselves struggling with business growth. “When you’re farming, which is a 24-7 job, there’s a lot to keep track of and we needed someone to help us with the numbers,” Jim explains. Since then, they have met with their SCORE mentor, Kurt Hulliger, consistently almost every two weeks. Kurt has helped them talk through every business question imaginable. Lynn says, “Kurt’s been invaluable. He’s helped us avoid major mistakes and taught us to keep excellent records to focus on the bottom line. He keeps us accountable with ‘homework’ that we may have overlooked at first but always helps our business grow.” Jim agrees: “You can tell Kurt’s business experience is extensive and it’s reassuring to hear him stay optimistic about our business trials and tribulations. He’s really helped us build a spirit for success.”
As a result of their long-term mentoring relationship, Jim, Lynn and Kurt have become good friends. “We share an appreciation for good food. Kurt is a talented gardener and gives us wonderful produce, in turn we give him excellent lamb,” Jim notes.
“Things you don’t plan for are bound to happen. To stay resilient, you’ll want to keep a positive attitude and find the best people to work with. SCORE mentors can help with that.”
Jim and Lynn continue to be amazed that Kurt offers his expertise for free, but are thankful nonetheless. They encourage any local entrepreneur in Kentucky to contact SCORE.