If you visit Sankow’s Beaver Brook Farm in Lyme, you’ll likely find 81-year-old Suzanne Sankow interacting with her 600 sheep, making a fresh batch of sheep’s milk cheese or crafting hand-spun wool into vests or socks that they sell in their on-site wool shop. Her husband, Stan, was born on the farm, but it was Suzanne who brought it back to life after Stan’s father died in the 1980s.
“The farm has been in my husband’s family since 1917,” Sankow says. “When I came to live here, they weren’t farming and the buildings needed work. As my children grew, I began to raise sheep. I wasn’t raised on a farm, but I’m an avid reader, and I inhaled every article I could find about sheep. My husband has always given me a free hand at doing this.”
The Sankows produce 2,000 pounds of wool each year, and in addition to vests and socks, they make blankets, hats, sweaters, scarves and yarn to sell. Stan isn’t directly involved with raising the animals, but for the past couple of years, he has been making wool socks. The farm store is open daily and also offers fresh lamb meat, several varieties of cheese and prepared foods such as white bean chili and lamb curry stew. The weekend before Thanksgiving, Sankow’s Beaver Brook Farm hosts a farm day with sheep shearing and spinning demonstrations, hayrides and free samples of their awardwinning meats and cheeses.
Not having grown up on a farm, Sankow says she never came into agriculture with the preconceived idea that men run a farm.
“I didn’t come here with the notion that Dad knows everything or my brother inherits the farm because he’s a man,” she says. “I was raised in a family of all girls, and my mom was a teacher who told us we could do anything.”
Sankow recalls a conversation with a male customer who asked her how she knew she could make sheep’s cheese.
“I said, ‘I never thought I couldn’t,'” she says. “If it turns out wrong, you read a book or make a phone call. What I have found is everything I need to know, I can find in a book.”