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My Secret Life as a Sheep Farmer or Never Say Never

Feb 3, 2008
It all started on a trip to Quintana Roo to do a feasibility study for an eco-tourism project in the Sian Ka'an biological reserve. Part of the project's challenge was that all food and palapa building materials had to be brought in as nothing could be cut or grown within the reserve. In other words, to make the project work, all food and building materials had to be sourced outside the reserve. No small chore.

The key was to source on the mainland near the city of Felipe Carrillo Puerto. The area is famous for its many communal farms and its radical if not bizarre politics. Having traveled extensively in the area before we were certain we could find what was needed in one communal farm, greatly strengthening my case for getting approval for the necessary permits.

Two days before going back to San Jose we were approached by a member of one of the farms. He said he had diabetes and the doctor told him he could no longer work on the farm. He also said none of his children wanted to farm; they had all moved to Merida, Cancun and Chetumal. He said he had been building it up as a sheep ranch but after fencing in a 10 acre parcel, building a sheep building and digging a well, he got sick. We drove to the little village near his ranch to spend the night.

It was love at first sight. It had everything we needed; a small lot in the Maya village and a pretty decent road to the ranch. For those that know Mexico, access is critical especially in the rainy season.

The night before we left we met the owner at his house in Playa del Carmen. We sat down and had a chat and went through the obligatory niceties before getting down to business. He asked me how we liked his ranch and if the if the jungle scared me.

He asked me about sheep and said it was up to me what to do but the place was made for sheep. He laughed.

The following month we flew back with the check and got the deed. The ranch was ours. But no sheep. Never.

We fixed up our hut in the village and contracted to do some clean up work at the ranch. The spot was beautiful and perfect for a ranch house out of the sheep building, putting in a solar water pump and creating a Garden of Eden. After it was cleaned up a bit it looked great especially since the water table was only fifteen feet down and some of the purest water on the planet.

Six months later we returned and were dismayed. The jungle had grown some 10 feet in our absence and was covering everything. Obviously we did not clearly understand the jungle is one big hothouse.

Our neighbor Poot had another idea. He said our ranch was perfect for sheep and he would move there, fix it up and we could split the lambs that were born. It would be a shame to let the good sheep ranch go to waste.

And that's how we became partners in our sheep ranch. We have the short haired variety and they are not used for wool. And sheep still smell but sheep barbecue is increasingly popular in Cancun and the Riviera Maya.

So there it is. We will eventually create five or six jobs and probably set up another sheep ranch near another well on our property. In four or five years we could have a couple of hundred sheep. Or maybe just let the jungle take back over...

And the simple lesson learned is never, never, say never.
About the Author
Jack Deal somewhat raises sheep in Mexico. Related articles may be found at http://www.jddeal.com/blog and http://www.freeandinquiringmind.typepad.com
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