Meet the Farmers: Bobby and Debby Collier
Bobby’s poem opens with, “I’m just a farmer, plain and simple.” The simple truth is this–Bobby has always been a farmer. From bartering with his father for his first cow when he was just seven years old to teaching agriculture in public schools for 32 years, farming has been Bobby’s lifelong passion.
In 1978, Bobby purchased property that adjoined his parents’ farm and laid the groundwork for what would become 3 Hills Farm. In 1982, Bobby married Debby, and over the next 38 years, the farm grew into one of the largest Border Cheviot sheep farms in Tennessee. Throughout the years, 3 Hills Farm Border Cheviots have competed on local, state, and national levels with multiple winners. Today, however, Bobby is focusing the farm’s efforts outside the show ring by providing quality lamb to consumers and restaurants throughout the area.
Whether he is out on the farm working with his sheep, training his dog, or educating grandchildren and visitors, Bobby remains true to his roots. He is just a farmer, plain and simple.
Growing up in a subdivision outside of Cincinnati, my childhood consisted of watching the Reds, attending concerts, and shopping. It did not include anything that remotely resembled a farm. But God has a sense of humor, and whether the joke was on Bob to have to put up with me, or the joke was on me for living on a farm, here we are.
A few years ago a friend called me; she wanted to get the new farmers’ market off the ground. She knew I worked with essential oils and asked if I would come down and set up. Over the next year, the market’s focus was on actual products grown on the farm. With this vision in mind, I began to seek new ways to represent our family farm. While traveling with Bob to sheep shows and visiting vendors’ booths there, I was able to see the potential that was actually in our own field. We began with wool dryer balls and eventually ventured into felted soaps.
In the midst of this product development, we had a sheep that had to be hand milked by Bob. (It is worthy to note here that the Cheviot breed is not a milk sheep.) When he brought the extra milk to the house, I said, “Hey, I think we can make soap from that.” Had I ever made soap? Nope, but the year before I knew nothing about wool. 🙂
Located on the Cumberland Plateau near Fall Creek Falls State Park, the sheep of 3 Hills Farm dot the landscapes of our hillsides in a picturesque way appreciated by all who visit. With over 30 years of experience in the sheep industry, 3 Hills Farm has established itself as one of the largest breeders of Border Cheviot Sheep in the state of Tennessee. We work diligently in raising and acquiring those sheep that best represents this breed’s characteristics. Many local, state and national winners are found on our farm as well as those bloodlines that are known to be proven winners. Being a meat breed has afforded us the opportunity of selling to individuals and local retail establishments as well as partnering with restaurants in the Chattanooga area where our lamb has been featured as one of their award winning signature dishes.
We shear yearly and transport our wool to a mill in Ohio. We have it processed into roving, batting, and yarn to utilize in our wool line of products inclusive of dryer balls, nesting balls, and felted soaps. It is then marketed throughout the United States to those individuals who appreciate the cheviot wool for its superior loft.
In 2018, a request to incorporate sheep milk soap into our line of natural products resulted in the purchase of an East Friesian Ewe. The success of this line of products prompted the purchase of 2 more dairy sheep for the upcoming year. Together with their lambs they compose a small dairy flock that shares the farm with the border cheviots. The diversity of our sheep farming has allowed us to expand our markets and education in the areas of food, fiber and milk. We welcome guest every year to the farm who spend “hands on” time learning about our sheep and the benefits that sheep can provide for us . We enjoy sharing our passion with others and open our farm for scheduled visits from June through September.
Available: Farm Tours, Custom Lamb, Wool Fiber Yarn, Soap and Oils, Other, sheep milk