Four Mile Farm in Ball Ground, GA and a recipe for Marinated and Grilled Loin Lamb Chops
In our travels to meet farmers over the past few years there has definitely been a trend in the type of new farmer we meet. Many have had prior professional careers and are retired. Others are still in the prime of their earning years and walk away from their office or other professional jobs to create a different kind of life for themselves and their family.
Then, there is the accidental farmer. Allison and Michael Bryant of Four Mile Farm in Ball Ground, Georgia, are still in the midst of their careers. Working in the telecom industry and living in Atlanta after graduating with degrees from Georgia Tech and Georgia State, this couple had a major life change after purchasing an Australian Shepherd.
Soon after adopting the dog, Michael became interested in developing their Australian Shepherd’s instinctive herding skills. For awhile, herding lessons once a month was fine, but one day, Michael realized if they were going to fully develop the dog’s herding potential, they would need more rigorous training. He suggested that they buy some land and purchase some animals. For Allison, who grew up in Massachusetts and owned and loved horses, that was all she needed to hear. They were soon looking for property in North Georgia.
That was 1996. Today, the Bryants have 60 acres of land complete with ducks, a flock of sheep, 10 cows and nine dogs. They train their Australian Shepherds to herd in all three competitive categories in order to participate in trials and championships.
The Bryants, who love great food and cooking, decided they would also raise the animals for food in addition to having them on the farm to help train the dogs. Michael and Allison want to know exactly where their food comes and how the animals have been raised. Their sheep and cattle roam freely on approximately 20 acres of pastures that are rotated for optimal grazing. They currently buy local pork from their butcher, but are looking at raising their own pigs.
Since it is springtime, we were interested in speaking with Allison about their sheep, the lambing season and to see their dog in action herding the animals. So, we traveled to Ball Ground, Georgia to Four Mile Farm. Ball Ground is a small rural community approximately one hour north of Atlanta.
When we arrived on the farm we were greeted by a few of their barking dogs, who raced out to see what we were up to. Australian Shepherds are also excellent guard dogs. It was a bright, windy day with the grass a brilliant green, fed by the spring rains. The sheep were content and happily grazing in the pasture. The flock stayed together initially with the mothers surrounding their newborn lambs.
When we entered the pasture with Allison and Chili (the herding dog), the sheep remained protective of their babies, but were very friendly. Some of the lambs were born just days before. It is not unusual for the sheep with newborns to not cooperate with the dog when it is trying to herd them. They stomp their feet and stand down. We did notice that Chili was gentle with the lambs and almost motherly.
Watching Chili herd the sheep at Allison’s direction was fascinating. Chili is clearly a working dog. Allison said that the work her dog can do would take four times as long without the dog and require a group of teenage boys and a 4 wheeler. Here is a short video on Four Mile Farm and Chili in action.
An interesting fact we learned about Australian Shepherds is that they will retire themselves between ten and twelve years of age. These dogs live to work and do it all their lives until one day they just quit. “They will be on their way to the field and then just stop and chase a butterfly and that’s it. They are done.”
When the lambs are first born their instinct is to follow the biggest thing they can find, which is usually their mother. This imprinting will also occur with baby chicks and ducks. There were a few minutes during our visit when one lamb thought I was its mother and I suddenly had a very close new friend following my every step. They are so precious to see and to hold at this age.
One of the newborns was rejected by its mother right after birth. The mother accepted the black one and rejected the white one and would head butt the white lamb when it tried to nurse. The white lamb found a way around this by sneaking in to nurse from behind while the black one was nursing up front. Once the lambs have been nursing and the milk gets into their systems, the baby will smell like the mother and they are no longer rejected.
Hi Gwen and Roger,
Wonderful article and beautiful pictures!
Miss you both.
We miss you, too! Thank you for your comment. This was a beautiful family farm an hour outside of Atlanta and Allison is such a delightful person. It was a great experience to spend time on their farm.
I need to get in touch with you to see if we can meet in New York while we are there in early May. That may be as close to Boston as we get for awhile!
Lovely story and pictures, Gwen! What a fun visit to the farm!
It was so great to see your comment and more importantly to reconnect with you. Gwen and I miss you too.
What a beautiful farm! I’m in love!! What a wonderful place to visit. You lucky woman!
We have great lamb in Australia and there’s nothing better than a chop on the barbie.
What a beautiful farm, reminds me of my growing up years, though we raised goats–wonderful animals. The photo of the lamb on your shoulder I could have taken a thousand times, they are so precious at that stage. So sweet. Thanks for sharing your experience.
DON’T THOSE LAMBS KNOW YOU’RE A DANGEROUS WOMAN WITH A CLEAVER???
OK, you’ve got to admit, there IS a certain irony with seeing all these GORGEOUS pictures of sweet little lambs, and adorable little Gwen and Allison, strolling amongst and cuddling with the dear little lambs…and then….raw lamb chops being marinated in garlic and olive oil and rosemary and then seared over an open flame….
Anyway: you’ve certainly got MY mouth watering for a cuddly little lamb chop!!!Love that these lambs have a happy, healthy life during the time that they are here on this planet.
I was waiting for someone to say that. Yes, I agree it is difficult to eat meat some days after visiting these farms. We took home lamb chops from this farm and ate them the same evening we were playing with the lambs earlier in the day. We have made a conscious decision to only purchase meat and poultry from smaller local farms. We also buy wild and sustainable fish whenever possible. I will only buy our proteins from Whole Foods or farmers directly. It is a big investment, but we believe it is the right thing to do.
I often think about not eating meat and I do prepare some vegetarian dishes. However, I enjoy variety in my cooking and love many dishes that include animal proteins. As long as I know the animals were raised and treated humanely, I feel better about my choice to eat meat.
Thank you for your comment.
Those little lambs are just beautiful. It would be wonderful to take the kids to a beautiful farm like that one day. You look so pretty in those photos;) Lamb is not a meat we eat very often and I do agree with you that it is important to know the animals were raised and treated humanely. Thanks for sharing this lovely visit.
Gwen wants a baby lamb!!!!
This is such a fascinating story!!! To think they started with the dog and went from there. I must share this with JP. What a beautiful story. And the lambs are so so cute! But, yes, I do love their meat! This would be the life JP dreams of and the Bryants look so absolutely happy and at peace. And are doing well with all their animals. Really great writeup, Gwen. And great photos. (and I am really amazed that the dogs retire themselves! To chase butterflies he he he). Fabulous recipe for this lamb lover!
Ok, I don’t eat lamb, always too gamey for me even if they’ve done everything to make it NOT or less gamey. I think it’s in my head now, far too deep. However, I love the story and photos, especially that little baby lambie at the top. I could never eat his ‘little wittle’ leg lol
Great post and beautiful pics of the farm! you look lovely in all of the pics! lamb chops recipe is to die for…great combination of flavors!
How someone can hold a beautiful lamb and talk about lamb chops in the same breath defies my comprehension. It makes my heart hurt in a way that I don’t think you can understand.
I wanted to respond to your very personal comment.
First of all, I do see that you have eaten meat in the past, so I’m sure you understand that a diet including meat can be very healthy, especially when it’s consumed in moderation. For us, it also allows us more options to try different local foods when traveling and gives us more creativity when cooking at home.
As to your concern with seeing the lamb and then cooking lamb chops in the same article, we think this is a very important connection for people to have and one of the reasons we visit and write about local farmers who properly raise and produce meat and poultry products. Most people have lost that connection to their food and don’t understand or want to know where their food comes from. They relate shrink wrapped packages from the grocery store to the meat they eat and don’t want to think about the fact that that meat was once a living and breathing animal.
When they understand more about the process, we hope they will also then choose where it comes from more thoughtfully and opt for locally sourced meats from farmers that humanely raise and slaughter their animals.