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Rural Romp provides a close-up view of where our food comes from

Romy Schill at her sheep farm Circle R Livestock during the seventh annual Spring Rural Romp on May 27. [Ali Wilson / The Observer]
Romy Schill at her sheep farm Circle R Livestock during the seventh annual Spring Rural Romp on May 27. [Ali Wilson / The Observer]
Farms, markets, and gardens opened their doors to the public for the Seventh Annual Spring Rural Romp last Saturday.

The thirteen participants were open to the public for self-guided tours where people had the opportunity to check out local food directly from the source.

Mariette Mulder brought her two daughters Sadie, 3, and Rebekka, 10-months, on the Spring Rural Romp after receiving one of the flyers at her home. She says it is important for people to be educated on where their food comes from.

“I am born and raised on the farm, so nothing is crazy new to me but I just thought it would be neat to show the girls the different animals and how they raise them on the farm – they have loved it,” said Mulder. “I think it’s important just to learn where food comes from, and not just go to the grocery store and pick it up. To learn more about how they are raised and the different steps that happen before they get in your bellies.”

After stopping by Ell-Crest Farms, Mulder visited Ryan and Romy Schill’s southern Mapleton family run sheep farm, Circle R Livestock.

This is the first time the Schill’s have participated in the Northern Wellington county tour, having participated in the Rural Romp once before when the tour included the entire region. Having been involved with Taste Real’s Local Food Map, headed by the group who facilitates the bi-yearly open house event, they decided it was a good opportunity to expose more people to their farm.

Both growing up locally, the couple who live on the farm with their three children Adalyn (2), Emerson (4) and Cameron (6) run the operation with the helping hand of family members, have been farming since 2008 after purchasing it from Ryan’s grandparents. A previously run cattle, pig and chicken farm, the couple decided to sell the beef and pork to purchase sheep, after seeing the evolving demand in the market to serve more ethnic cuisine. The farm currently houses 300 ewes, 150 lambs and 1200 laying hens laying for Bonnie’s Chick Hatchery in Elmira.

Working with genetic profiles Romy focuses on producing the highest quality livestock for their quality meat, sheep and lamb skins, wool and yarn.

“A lot of producers have different goals, but ours is providing good healthy breeding stock so we go with what we like, and what our customers like,” said Ryan.

The open house allowed for guests to witness firsthand the care and management that goes into producing the high quality sheep and environmentally conscious farming. Romy says, open house events like this help people to know where their food comes from.

“Most people are so far removed from the farm that they really have no idea what goes on, so it’s nice to show them what actually happens.”

Sheep playing during the self-guided tour of the Circle R Livestock, one of the 13 vendors open to the public during the Spring Rural Romp on May 27. [Ali Wilson / The Observer]

The rural romp provides the opportunity for people to see the actual process and living conditions of animals from local producers. Ryan says one of the biggest problems in their industry is being painted with a broad stroke after images of unfit farmers surface.

“And that is the biggest problem I have especially on social media you get these activist groups and all they are trying to do is make a case that’s not even plausible really. Yeah, there are bad apples out there that shouldn’t be farming, but we are all in it for the same. A nonproductive farm isn’t going to produce you any money to live off of – we are just trying to make a living like everybody else,” said Ryan.

Romy encourages people to attend events such as this one to allow you the opportunity to talk to your local producer and ask questions, rather than being bombarded with information online.

“It is nicer to talk to someone and ask questions than maybe get your information off of Google, right?” she says.

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