My Sheep Farm Activity


William Jarvis (1770-1859) was successful merchant and the United States Consul to Portugal and well known in both New England and Washington, DC. Jarvis played an important part in introducing Merino sheep to the United States, and subsequently in the development of the sheep herds in this country.

The success of raising Merino herds in Vermont led to "merino mania." Did you know that in 1837 there were over one million sheep in Vermont? Merino sheep are known for their fine wool, hardiness and herding instincts. Having a cleft lip allows these sheep to graze on just about everything. Therefore, thousands of acres of poor, rocky soil in Vermont made fine grazing land for merinos.

The growing demand for wool by the textile industry of New England led to a change in farming practices. Small family farms were consolidated into larger farms because sheep require large grazing areas. Also, many farms became dependent on one product -- wool. From late April or early May until November the sheep were kept in the pastures. After the first frost until the following spring they were kept under shelters with fenced yards and fed hay and oats or corn. Owners were always careful to provide salt and plenty of water for the animals.

During this activity, students will pretend that they purchased a plot of land. Based on constraints, they will discover just how many sheep you can raise. Then, they will determine how much income can be raised from selling their merino sheep fleeces.

There are opportunities to extend this activity based on both your available time, and your student's capabilities.



College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards

  • D2.Eco.5.K-2 Identify prices of products in a local market
  • D2.Eco.7.K-2 Describe examples of costs of production

Common Core Standard

  • 3.NBT Fluently add and subtract within 1000 using strategies and algorithms based on place value, properties of operations, and/or the relationship between addition and subtraction.