Wendell Berry believes that farms should be of a size that one family can care for the land, the crops and the animals it includes. On Sunday, we met the Mentz family in Sheridan. They raise dairy sheep (just a handful of ewes). Earl Mentz said something that seems more profound the more I consider it - he said, "Don't have more sheep than you can handle - that's a different number for different people, but don't have too many sheep."
Scale of operation is an interesting consideration. For us, I've determined that I need to market between 400 and 500 lambs each year to be an economically sustainable operation. This means we need between 300 and 350 ewes. Based on my experience so far, I think I can care for this many sheep by myself or with the help of my family and my interns. I can also build to this number without a huge capital investment.
The challenge in terms of scale is in part related to the time it will take me to market 4-500 lambs (as I've mentioned before). I need to be more efficient in my marketing time, but I also need to sell as many of those lambs as I can directly to the end user. I find that many of my customers want to buy "from the farmer." If the farmer is spending all of his/her time marketing, how does the farming get done?
Scale also relates to our family dynamics. I love my work, but I also need down time. I want work to be fun, and I want my girls to enjoy the times we work together. If the next generation is to take an interest in today's farms, the farms must be profitable and fun.
I hope others will weigh in on this topic!