|Lester Brashear is one of 300 sheep farmers in southeastern Kentucky who are hoping to use reclaimed strip mines to create a new market for Kentucky spring lamb. (Photos by Sam Adams, The Mountain Eagle)|
|A curious ewe lamb peeks out. |
(Photo by Sam Adams, The Mountain Eagle)
That's where nimble-footed lambs and sheep come in handy. Angel explained, "The only way to correct that is by reforesting and/or doing large-scale, small-ruminant grazing as it's done in the Rockies, in the Carpathians in Central Europe." Adams reports, "And, he said, there is historical precedence for that working in the Appalachian Mountains of Eastern Kentucky. . . . It used to be known for lamb. He said customers at 'five-star, white-tablecloth restaurants' in New York, Boston and up and down the eastern seaboard depended on the lamb from this region from the 1880s until just after World War II. . . . 'At the top of the menu, you could see the three words "Kentucky spring lamb" and Eastern Kentucky was the supplier of Kentucky Spring Lamb,'" Angel said.
|Eastern Kentucky's Cumberland Plateau can be divided into four sections,|
increasingly mountainous the farther southeast. (University of Kentucky map)
What's the difference between lamb and mutton? Brashear explains: "A sheep 14 months or younger is a lamb, and after that, they become a hogget, and then after that, they become a sheep or a mutton." Adams adds, "Brashear explained that people who aren't used to the meat . . . assume that they won't like lamb because they had mutton and didn't like it. . . . SEKSPA members have been "cooking lamb at trainings and meetings across the region to give people a taste of what they've been missing. . . .This year, they plan to put a large flock of sheep on a strip mine in Perry County to see how it will fare. . . . . Both say if it works, it could give new life to strip mines that don't have trees and show other farmers they can make money from the practice."