Stoneheart Farm
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Name:          Stoneheart Farm

Address:      John and Doreen Simmons

                     Stoneheart Farm

                     285 Streaked Mountain Road

                     South Paris, Maine  04281 

Phone:          207-743-7796


What Makes Stoneheart Farm Unique?

Unique Maine Farms thought it would be interesting to profile a farm that counted on a border collie to help in their farm operation.  John and Doreen Simmons of Stoneheart Farm in South Paris, and Gwen, their border collie, came highly recommended by David Kennard, a border collie expert who has conducted herding demonstrations for many years at the Common Ground Fair.

Three-year-old Gwen is the second border collie that the Simmons have owned.  Ness, their first dog who helped with the herding of their sheep, passed away in 2012, at nine years of age.  Although Ness was greatly loved, John explained that she just didn’t have the natural instinct for herding that Gwen has already so capably demonstrated.

Border collies had their origins in England and Scotland and were used for herding livestock.  Although the herding of sheep by border collies is their most common use, they also help on farms to herd cattle, and free-range poultry, hogs, and even ostriches.  Other functions that they sometimes serve include being used to round up unwanted wild birds from public areas such as parks, airport runways, and golf courses. 

Border collies usually possess a great deal of energy and agility and have a reputation for their keen intellect.  Dog trainers explain that it is very important for border collies to be mentally challenged and to be given a great deal of exercise.  John described how Gwen thrives on helping to herd the animals on the farm.

If you have ever had the opportunity to watch a sheepdog demonstration where a border collie exhibits their herding instinct, the intensity displayed by the dog is truly unforgettable.  John explained that their sheep respond to Gwen because they are intimidated by her formidable glare and her threatening affect.

The Simmons purchase their border collies from David Kennard of Wellscroft Farm in Chesham, New Hampshire. They are very grateful to him for the training advice that he has provided over the years.  They are thoroughly enjoying the addition of Bea, their new border collie puppy. 

A great deal of love is shown at Stoneheart Farm for their dogs and animals. It is fitting that their farm is named Stoneheart farm.  After John built the stone wall in front of their house, he found a rock shaped like a heart and attached it to the front of the wall - hence, the name “Stoneheart.”

When Unique Maine Farms visited Stoneheart Heart Farm in November of 2012,  John and Doreen were preparing to bring the sheep home for the winter from a neighbor’s field where they grazed during the warm months.  The sheep that the Simmons raise are grassfed in areas enclosed in portable fences that run on a solar-charged battery.  Every three to four days their grazing area is rotated.

Bringing the sheep back home from their neighbor’s property involved a mile-and-a-half trek down Streaked Mountain Road.  After watching Gwen work the sheep it was evident that she has proven to be a vital player in the success of the farm.  Gwen made sure every single sheep was rounded up and safely led back home.  She followed the voice commands and whistles that were given by John and responded with speed and enthusiasm.  Doreen explained that hand signals are not given during the herding process since the border collies must focus exclusively on the sheep.

When Unique Maine Farms visited Stoneheart Farm in November 2012, the Simmons had around forty sheep. Seventy-eight lambs were born in the spring of 2013.  John and Doreen plan on adding another barn to house additional sheep and are looking to have a flock of about one hundred sheep in the future.

There was another animal that made the trek back home with John and Doreen and the sheep and that was their beloved Larry the llama.  It appeared that he was aware that Gwen meant business, and after being rounded up, Larry followed along the route with everyone else, granted with a somewhat lower enthusiasm level!  The Simmons acquired another llama by the name of Cookie in February 2013.

The Katahdin Hair Sheep that the Simmons raise are quite a popular breed which was developed in the 1950‘s in Abbott, Maine, by Michael Piel  from crosses of various breeds.  Kathahdin sheep are woolless and considered to be easily maintained since they do not require shearing.  In the cold weather they grow a thick winter coat that sheds when the weather turns warm. They are praised as good mothers and good milkers who lamb easily.  Their hair coats vary in colors.  They are highly valued for their lean meat.

The demand for lamb at Maine restaurants and stores has increased dramatically as customers realize that the meat from a lamb can not be compared to the heavy, greasy reputation that is often associated with mutton.   John and Doreen sell their lamb to Cinque Terre Restaurant and Vignola Restaurant in Portland.  The meat is valued because the lamb is grass-fed and locally raised.

Maintaining their one hundred-acre farm, which they purchased in 1993, has been a part-time undertaking with many daily commitments for the Simmons.  John Simmons has been employed as an Emergency Room physician at Stephen’s Memorial Hospital in Norway since 1994.  He earned his D.O. degree from Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine and did his residency at Wilfort Hall USAF Medical Center. 

Doreen Simmons worked as an Intensive Care Unit nurse at Center Maine Medical Center for ten years.  She is now focusing her efforts on the farm and participating in the Fox School Farmers’ Market in South Paris.  The market is held on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. It will open on May 11, 2013, and operate through the beginning of October.  Doreen will be selling lamb, eggs, some wool from the Columbian sheep that she used to raise,  and produce from the gardens.

John and Doreen will be raising a wide variety of vegetables that they will be selling at the Farmers’ Market including greens, lettuces, onions, potatoes, garlic, squash, and beets.  They have had large gardens in the past and have canned and frozen a considerable amount of food to consume during the year. The Simmons’ recipe for Stoneheart Farm’s Slow Roasted Lamb with Maine Cannellini Beans was shared on “Chuck Eats the Street” in the “Where the Ocean Meets the Farm” episode on the Cooking Channel.

When the Simmons first began farming they raised some pigs and Columbian sheep.  Doreen was interested in the wool for her spinning and knitting at the time. They have evolved to concentrate on meat-producing sheep. This past year John and Doreen raised turkeys.  They have about twenty-five Rhode Island Reds and sell eggs.  They recently acquired eight Indian Runner ducks.  Doreen shared a great photo of Gwen rounding up the ducks with puppy Bea intently looking on.

There is a bright future for Gwen and Bea.

John hopes to be increasing the number of herding demonstrations.  He has assisted David Kennard at the past two Common Ground Fairs.

It is thought that the word “collie” comes from the old Celtic word for “useful.”  If you ever have the chance to visit Stoneheart Farm or the opportunity to observe Gwen (and eventually Bea) at work at a herding demonstration, it will be very clear how truly useful and significant a border collie can be to the owners of a sheep and other livestock farms.

Bea is the new border collie puppy at Stoneheart Farm. (photo courtesy of Stoneheart Farm)

Produce going to market. (photo courtesy of Stoneheart Farm)

Napping on Mom’s back. (Photo courtesy of Stoneheart Farm)

Moving Day (photo courtesy of Stoneheart Farm)

Gwen, the 
Border CollieStone_Heart_Gwen_Border_Collie.html