Youth Conservationist Program
The Youth Conservationist Program (YCP) is an adult/youth mentoring program that enables young aspiring shepherds to experience the joys and responsibilities of raising and conserving heritage breeds of wool sheep that may not be common in their area of the United States. Breeders who are willing to mentor youth donate a yearling ewe and help the recipient establish their own flock. Recipients are expected to fulfill the requirements of the YCP by promoting/showing their particular breed of sheep, breeding to a registered ram and by producing a woolen item using the fleece from their own animal. Donors award the ewes to their chosen recipients at the YCP Ceremony held annually at the festival. In 2019, 13 registered ewes were awarded to young shepherds. A number of our past recipients have also become donors and are reinvested in the same YCP program that helped them succeed.
Youth interested in applying for the 2020 Youth Conservationist Program need to be between 9 and 18 years old. If selected, youth must be present to receive the ewe at the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival on the Sunday of the event. They must agree to exhibit the ewe at least twice in 2020 at:
- a county fair or local sheep show; and
- the State Fair in the state where the recipient lives.
They must also agree to breed the ewe to a registered ram in the fall of 2020, and must agree to either use the ewe’s fleece to personally make a woolen item or sell the fleece to a spinner, felter, or weaver. Finally, they must submit a one-to-two page report, with pictures to the donor breeder by April 30, 2021.
Applications from interested youth must be postmarked by April 1, 2020. In the application/essay the youth should describe themselves, their experience with animals, explain their interest in sheep, and answer the question: “Why would I like to help conserve a heritage breed of sheep?” The total application/essay should be no more than 2 pages in length. The application must include address, phone and, if available, youth’s email address. Please also provide contact info (name/phone/email) for a parent or guardian. The applicant should indicate whether they wish to be considered for a particular breed or for any of the breeds available. Each applicant must also include a “letter of recommendation” from his or her 4-H Advisor, FFA Advisor, Veterinarian, Teacher, or Clergy.
Interested young people should contact Elaine Ashcraft at the address below or by email at for an updated list of breeds available, and then submit their letter of application/essay to: Elaine Ashcraft, 46118 CR 58, Coshocton, Ohio 43812. Emailed applications will not be accepted.