Farm welcomes 40,000 visitors annually to learn more about sheep, agriculture

A recent visit to Shepherd’s Cross by Ozarks Farm & Neighbor began with a prayer and ended with a blessing.
In the “Big Pasture,” a simple wood cross stands on a knob of land reminding everyone in whose name the farm is operated – His will made manifest.
In addition to its spiritual roots, Shepherd’s Cross is an operating farm, focusing in the production of high-quality wool and meat from purpose bred sheep.
Peter and Dr. Diane Dickinson married just after graduation from college. With a degree in veterinary science, Diane moved into a practice with small and large animals, but something was lacking. Then the day came that she heard God tell her to tend to His flock. The couple began Shepherd’s Cross in the summer of 1993, and while there are many facets of the operation, it continues to be family farm.
Shepherd’s Cross, which consists of 120 acres, also offers shepherding tours, fiber and animal husbandry classes, an ASI approved sheep shearing school, and spinning, weaving and felting classes. A museum at the farm contains artifacts from nomadic shepherds gathered from around the world.
About 40,000 visitors travel to the farm annually, thanks to a partnership with the Oklahoma Department of Tourism.
Close to 400 sheep call the farm home. Diane said sheep have been selectively bred to develop the Shepherd’s Cross flock.
“We wanted a sheep that could live off the land and survive Oklahoma’s dramatic temperature changes,” Diane explained. “We also wanted them to meet the needs of the American palate for meat purposes, and have a good quality wool.”
Lamb meat sold by Shepherd’s Cross is USDA inspected, and is promoted as grass fed, pasture raised and free range.
In addition to raising lambs for meat, wool is also harvested from the sheep. Last year, about 1,000 pounds was collected from 179 sheep.
Inside the farm’s gift shop, skeins of colorfully died wool harvested from the farm’s sheep adorn the room.
The farm is Animal Welfare Approved, which means producers follow strict standards in relation to animal production and slaughter.
Diane said the flock trusts the shepherd to guide, feed and protect it. As she talked of the flock, the used a shepherd’s staff to gently guide the sheep, and urged people to remember that was no purpose in cruelty toward animals.
The sprawling pasture is planted to native grass with clover.
Shepherd’s Cross offers an internship and residency program to college students, which offers studies in five emphasis areas: sheep and other livestock, wool milling, museum, missions and gardening.
“I love the program because it keeps us on our toes and we learn from them just as much as they learn from us,” Dana explained.
A small herd of Red Dexter cattle is also part of the farm.
In 2006, Diane and Peter founded the non-profit organization the Heart of the Shepherd to provide agricultural training for rural, impoverished communities. Diane has taken her lessons in animal husbandry, and wool processing and weaving to Russia, Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan, Thailand, Malawi, Kenya and South Africa.
Diane has retrained her veterinary license over the years, but her true calling has been fulfilled.
“There is just such a great need to teach agriculture here in our nation and to help folks in impoverished areas,” she said. “I have to just table my emotions and do what really needs to be done to serve people better, and to serve the animals. That’s the oath the take; to provide a service to animals and care for them. This is what I am called to do and to take care of them in a little different way other than in private veterinary practice.”


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