Written by Jan Johnson
Editor of Trailblazher Magazine
Feature Story on Sandi Brock
Shepherd Creek Farms
Photos by Jodie Aldred
Article originally appeared in our Premier Fall 2020 Issue of Trailblazher Magazine.
Sandi Brock and her husband Mark run Shepherd Creek Farms, a grain and livestock operation near Staffa, Ontario. Sandi looks after the livestock in their operation and through her niche YouTube channel – Sheepishly Me – provides daily behind-the-scenes posts about her sheep operation. Her mission is to tell stories in a different and open way to inform and entertain consumers about farming.
Conquering new heights, platforms and personal challenges – one sheep farmer proves the value in believing in your own story.
“I always knew I wanted to be in agriculture – I just wasn’t sure what it looked like.”
Sandi Brock grew up on a dairy farm and loved the whole farming lifestyle, but that didn’t stop her from having what she describes as an ‘identity crisis’. Before she and her husband Mark established Shepard Creek Farms, Brock worked in a management capacity for Mark’s family poultry farm operation for 13 years. When the couple decided to branch out on their own into a grain farm operation, the opportunity for her to do something different as well arose – but she didn’t initially know what that opportunity could be.
Then during an infrastructure course in 2011, she had the opportunity to tour a modern sheep barn and that is when she had her ‘aha’ moment. Brock had a good feeling about sheep and when she visited the sheep barns and saw how they were modernized, it ignited many ideas within. Shortly after, in 2012 she and her husband started her sheep operation, Shepard Creek Farms, with 50 ewes. That grew to 500 ewes in 2013 and the building of their sheep barn.
Not one to stop moving forward, Brock began thinking about how she could share her agricultural work and ideas with others after seeing two women doing a facebook live video and having a great time just chatting about everyday life. Upon doing some initial research Brock decided that social media was where she was going to invest her time and energy, and use a video platform to start sharing what she had to say about her sheep, her farming operation and her life in general. She started with SnapChat originally, but then began to understand the power and workings of YouTube.
“It took me a year to research YouTube and learn (how to use) it,” Brock explains. She switched to YouTube in 2017, creating the ‘Sheepishly Me’ channel.
Brock found that YouTube has amazing analytics and she was able to track her engagement and her demographic. As her channel grew she realized the relationships she was growing were genuine and that she was building a fan base that loved what she had to say in her unique way of storytelling.
Brock says she spends 50 per cent of her ‘down’ time creating content for her channel and 50 per cent researching the platform. She has grown organically and is still learning the ins and outs of the YouTube platform as algorithms and trends are always changing. Add to this workload that she manages a facebook page, an Instagram feed and Instagram stories on her own – and we can only ask, when does she sleep?
Brock is a passionate, hard working farmer, wife and mother to two kids and has set a pace for herself that many would find too grueling to keep up with, yet everyday she starts fresh and provides honest, raw and heart rending stories through the content she shares. She is open about her farming operation, her sheep and the life she is living as she shares a behind-the-scenes look at it all.
Brock loves the emails she often gets from little girls written from their mom’s account. “I’m going to be a sheep farmer,” is a consistent message she receives from them she says.
As a woman farmer Brock says, “I don’t get caught up in ‘representing’. No one has ever questioned my gender and as a girl I worked hard on the farm. Respect is more important to me.”
Brock says some of her best videos are when she’s having a terrible time, but she just keeps showing up. Through this she says she sees more empathy and kindness from people.
“Growing my YouTube channel has made me a better farmer. It’s made me see my practises through a thousand eyes,” she explains. “It makes me more accountable as I edit and see what I do.”
What are some of the challenges faced by this modern social media savvy farmer?
Well there are a few areas where Brock feels frustrated.
“I feel really lonely in this space because everything is online,” she says. “It’s taken a long time to get here.”
She acknowledges that things on the farm are not made for women and that can add a challenge as well, “we are not as big as men and I don’t ever want to say I can’t do something! Confidence is huge in what I do!”
Brock also adds: “I hate housework and cooking meals. After fieldwork I find myself throwing a frozen pizza into the oven at ten at night. Grace is important. Balance is a myth.”
The biggest challenge Brock is currently facing is figuring out the next evolution of Sheepishly Me. She is in the process of learning what her audience wants as she continues to understand who they are and what she could provide to them.
When asked what impact she would like to make, Brock says, “It’s really the connections that matter to me. I love answering comments and questions and I would like to create a place where people don’t compare themselves to me. I am a storyteller and I believe in connectivity.”
Sandi Brock is the real deal – a modern trailblazing woman.
Follow along her journey on IG @sheepishly.me
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