Karen Weinberg on “Ethical Farming, Ethical Food”

Karen Weinberg owns and operates a sheep farm named 3 Corner Field Farm, with her husband, Paul Borghard, and their two daughtes. Their farm started in 2000 and raises sheep which in turn provide yogurt, cheese products, fiber, and meat. Weinberg spoke about the challenges of meeting the desires of consumers as a producer. A question she is often asked by costumers is if the products from her farm are organic. Weinberg replies that although they are not certified organic, they abide by organic principles. They opted out of the certification process because they believed it put too many restrictions and limitations that even consumers who wanted “organic” meat would not agree with. For example, Weinberg uses antibiotics on her animals when it is absolutely necessary such as when an animal is injured. However, the use of the antibiotic just during the time period of the injury would deem that sheep inorganic and Weinberg would be forced to lose control over her animal. Furthermore, if Weinberg did want to qualify for the certification she would not be able to bring in external equipment to help hay their property. Thus, Weinberg and her family decided that the troubles were not worth the label and that it is no longer an issue with regular customers.

Another difficult aspect of being a producer Weinberg spoke about was the use of grain. Although, the farm began their operation initially without any grain they learned that the sheep were simply not getting enough nutrients. Therefore, they decided to always make sure there was more than enough grass and hay available for the sheep but to also supplement a concentrated amount of gain for the well-being of the lambs when necessary. The titles that consumers use are not always in agreement with what Weinberg and her family feel they need to provide for their sheep to live a more substantiated life.

The final topic Weinberg discussed was the whole system of being a sheep farmer. During her regular interactions with customers, Weinberg frequently comes across customers who ask her why they are slaughtering the sheep for meat. Weinberg expressed that in order for there to be cheese, dairy, and yarn form sheep, there was going to be meat that was part of the entire process. She believes that consumers have a false idea that they can separate all the different products a sheep provides. Weinberg said it was more important to raise the sheep in the way she believed was most ethical and then also slaughter them in the same way rather than questioning the ethical consumption of meat. Weinberg urged consumers to think about the decisions made by farmers and producers and to not get caught up on labels but to talk to the producers directly.

By Helen Song ’14

Karen Weinberg (right) and CES Chair Professor Ralph Bradburd (left)

Karen Weinberg (right) and CES Chair Professor Ralph Bradburd (left)