On a balmy June morning, our travels took us to Buckhannon to the home of Shipley’s Forest Hill Farm. Randal and Barbara Shipley are one of the market’s original vendors and have kept a steady presence ever since.
Our journey started at their home, a brick ranch with plenty of evening primrose flowers closing their heads to escape from the sun. Their home sits on five acres and it is here where they raise their chickens and turkeys. We lucked out and got to see a whole brooder full of young chicks, as well as their older birds under the canopy out of the heat.
The couple keeps a small garden for themselves and are focusing on their meat production. A converted spring house houses their smoker and a ham was in there on the day of our visit. Barbara also smokes some of their bacon and we got to see (and smell!) a fresh batch of applewood smoked bacon.
After our mouths stopped watering, we loaded up and traveled 2 miles down the road to a 40 acre pasture to meet some of the cows. Randal raises Limousin cattle, a breed which the couple chose for the leanness of the meat. Young steers and some cows are kept on this pasture and they were quite happy to see us!
All the cows are quite fond of Randal and came sauntering over to him once we were out of the truck. Some of the younger cows were slightly skiddish with strangers around, but others had no problems warming up to us.
Another 2 miles down the road is the Shipley’s main 200 acre farm. The farm, which originally belonged to Barbara’s grandparents, is where Randal keeps his herd sire, Buckwheat. Acquiring the farm was no easy feat, but with persistence and hard work, the couple became the owners of the farm in 1988. As with many farmers, both Randal and Barbara held full time day jobs. For the first two years after purchasing the farm, they spent every weekend and countless nights restoring the farm to it’s glory and ability to run cattle on it again. The farm is place full of memories for Barbara. Her grandparents had eight children and they would gather together at the farm on Sundays for dinner.
Barbara was also a pioneer of sorts in bringing meat to a farmers market, beginning in Elkins. The road wasn’t always easy, but the couple is passionate about their farm and again, persistence paid off. We are so happy to still have them as part of our market!