Meet Sheep Farmer Ben Powell
The Dirt on the Farm
Farm Family: Ben Powell, his son Mark and his family
Crops & Livestock: Sheep and pasture
Farm Legacy: Ben Powell’s grandchildren represent the sixth generation to raise sheep
Farm Location: Wilson County
Farm Bureau Membership: 57 years
Q: What type of farm do you have?
A: Our farm is 180 acres, and we raise four breeds of sheep: Southdown, Hampshire, Dorset and Cheviot. The Dorsets are raised for freezer lambs, and the other three are for showing. Each of my three granddaughters has their own breed they show. We go to 10 or 12 different shows each year where they show their sheep. They meet a lot of people and friends from all across the country. Having three different breeds means they don’t have to compete against each other and instead get to help each other out.
As I look back, growing up on the farm was one of the best things that ever happened to me. I always assumed I would one day farm full time. But after graduating from the University of Tennessee, I was sent to Rutherford County as the 4-H agent for 10 years, then on to the state 4-H office in Knoxville for 30 years … so I was away from the farm for nearly 40 years. When I retired in 1997, I moved back to the farm, and my son Mark also moved here – we’ve been raising sheep ever since. All three of my children are tied to agriculture, and they are passing that on to their children.
Q: What did working for 4-H mean to you?
A: The purpose of 4-H is to help young people grow up and become good, productive citizens. During my time, we used mainly agriculture and home economic projects as vehicles to help children gain life skills. I absolutely loved my job, and one of my goals in 4-H was to help members develop life skills by interacting with animals. This teaches children so much about responsibility and how to become a productive adult, and I wanted to have all 4-Hers to have access to learning that skill.
Q: Is it important to share what you do as a farmer?
A: It is extremely important, probably more today than ever before. Most people are three or four generations removed from any participation on a farm, which makes it so vital to share with them what agriculture is all about. The Ag in the Classroom effort, as well as 4-H and FFA, is a key component in helping us tell that story to each generation as they grow up.
Q: What’s your biggest blessing on the farm?
A: Living in the country is very important to me. You just stay closer to nature and closer to God, because you can see Him working through you with the animals and crops. The closeness to nature is a big plus for those of us who live on a farm.
Getting to farm the same land my grandfather and father farmed, trying to improve the soil and make it more productive are two of my biggest joys on the farm. Having my son Mark and his family living here, in the same house I grew up in, and having those three granddaughters close is something I cherish.
Q: Are you Farm Bureau proud?
A: I am absolutely Farm Bureau and agriculture proud. Farm Bureau plays a big part in our wellbeing. I am currently on the Wilson County Farm Bureau board and hopefully giving back a small portion to an organization that has given so much to us along with Tennessee 4-H and FFA.
Q: Sheep have always been a part of your life. How do you feel about your grandchildren carrying on that tradition?
A: I was Secretary/Treasurer of Tennessee Sheep Producers for 50 years. My father was in that role for years before me, and now my son Mark is in that same role. We continue to be a family that believes in and raises sheep – my granddaughters have learned so much through their sheep projects. They are learning how to shear, but the biggest thing is they are learning responsibility – and it’s a shame that all young people can’t have that opportunity.