Published Mon, Jan 2, 2012 11:56 am Dateline
More Ohioans are putting lamb on the dinner table these days and that's making Don Van Nostran and other sheep farmers very happy.
Van Nostran is making good money with lamb prices at an all-time high.
But at the same time, he's concerned about the future.
Van Nostran has been in the sheep business for more than 50 years.
He operates a 125 acre farm south of Athens with his wife Meta.
Van Nostran does a lot of business with Kroger, supplying lamb to the store in Athens and two others in Columbus.
Both Kroger and Super Walmart have said they would sell only American lamb and the announcements this year by the two big grocery store chains have been a significant boost for the sheep industry.
Curt Cline is another local sheep farmer.
Like Van Nostran, he is worried, even though markets are growing and the two of them are prospering.
Cline explains it this way -- "There needs to be a certain level of numbers of head of sheep to support infrastructure."
Cline says the long-term sustainability of the industry is at stake.
"If the infrastructure falls apart, you're kind left hanging," he says.
This is why the American Sheep Industry Association is calling on sheep producers to expand their sheep numbers by 2014.
This national initiative has a goal of producing 315,000 more lambs and Cline has signed on to be part of that.
The initiative is called "Let's Grow with twoPlus" and Van Nostran is a backer as well.
Officials think young farmers would find it better to get involved in raising sheep because, compared to other areas of agriculture, it's more affordable.
Ohio currently ranks 13th nationally in sheep production but Van Nostran believes there's lots of room for more.
The good news for sheep farmers doesn't end with high lamb prices.
Wool prices are at an all-time high, too, and that's another reason for optimism.