LIVERPOOL, Pa. — Eleven year-old Tessa Bard does not like to knit. She does, however, love animals. A trip with her mother to the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival this year was not something that interested her a great deal.
But that trip helped her win a ewe.
Tessa, of Liverpool, Pa., is the winner of the Youth Conservationist Program with the festival. The sixth-grader wrote an essay about how rare breeds of sheep should continue to live and thrive in farm environments.
Tessa won a three-year-old Shetland sheep named Kozette. A Shetland is a Northern European short-tailed sheep. Tessa won the YCP award this past April and received Kozette in May.
An active 4-H student, Tessa had raised rabbits since she was 9.
“When I was in first grade I was obsessed with horses,” she said. In her winning essay she wrote about riding horses, finding and caring for an injured rabbit, and dealing with an ornery buck for a 4-H project.
In one instance she described losing 6 of 10 baby rabbits to a bear.
“Even though it was devastating, I still didn’t quit,” she said.
She wanted to try to raise a larger animal, but not as high-maintenance as a cow or horse.
“I thought about sheep,” she said, and was hoping to one day be able to buy one.
Wool is found by the bag in the Bard home as Tessa’s mom, Dawn, spins and knits. Tessa has not taken a liking to the hobby itself admittedly, and reluctantly attended the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival with her mom and aunt. While they were scanning the exhibits in 2011, Tessa found some information about the Young Conservationist Program. The winner of the program was to receive a ewe from a rare breed. The student needed to be between the ages of 9 and 18 years and write about her willingness to take part in the program.
Elaine Ashcroft is the YCP coordinator who has been with the program since 2001. Many of the past winners, she said, include students who later donated sheep back to the program for future recipients. One such person was a 2005 recipient, Ben Shugharts, of Carlisle, Pa., who donated every year from 2009 through 2012.
“One of the aspects of the YCP is that we encourage the knowledge that wool is a valuable commodity, whether using it for their own projects such as spinning, weaving and felting or selling the fiber to mills.”
Tessa was among 35 participants this year, 15 of whom received a ewe, and said she plans to use the Shetland wool for weaving and other related fiber work.
It was recommended that the family purchase an additional sheep and ram to keep the ewe company and for breeding purposes. The family now has Kozette, November, Phannie and Ramesses, the ram named for the Egyptian pharaoh.
Tessa was given several requirements as an award winner and new member of the YCP with Kozette.
She must send a thank-you note to, and keep contact with, her donor breeder, Bill and Sandy Truckner of Twin Springs Farm in Avonmore, Pa. Over the summer and fall she needed to attend shows and activities and present Kozette. This past July, Tessa and Kozette participated in the Juniata County Youth Fair where they won grand champion in the Shetland class, reserve grand champion overall, and grand champion in showing.
The 11-year-old is hoping to show Kozette at the Pennsylvania Farm Show in January.
Tessa will also send an item made from Kozette’s wool to her sponsor family this Christmas, among other activities required.
More information on the festival or the conservation program can be found at http://www.sheepandwool.org/.