WESTMINSTER — By next summer, Jack Price will be counting sheep only in his sleep.
No more walking from the barn to the pasture with his border collie to herd the flock. No more waking up in the middle of the night tohelp a ewe give birth. No more schoolchildren filing through his barn on field trips.
Price, a longtime county farmer well-known and respected among sheep breeders in the Mid-Atlantic region, is retiring.
At 71, Pricesaid it's time to stop.
"I don't know any other shepherd my age by himself," Price said.
Price and his wife, Ollie, 70, are sellingtheir farm at Old Bachmans Valley and Lemmon roads to finance their retirement.
Price has started selling some of his flock and equipment. He said he hopes to sell the 90-acre farm by next spring or summer.
In November, the couple will move from the two-story white house where they've lived for almost 30 years to a home they're buildingon one edge of their property.
Ollie Price, who grew up on a cotton farm in Mississippi, is looking forward to it.
"The house will be nice," she said. "We've lived in old farmhouses all our married life, practically."
Jack Price, a Statesville, N.C., native who speaks deliberately from under his straw cowboy hat, said his wife supported them while he raised sheep.
"She had a paying job and fed and clothed us," he said, smiling.
She worked in an accounting office in Towson, Baltimore County, for 20 years and now sells real estate part time. Green-and-white "For Sale" signs with the name of the real estate agency she's associated with are posted along their property line.
Jack Price, who has the deeply creased face and tanned neck every farmer earns, said, "My life has not been very financially productive, but I've pretty much done what I've wanted to."
His avocation has earned him a reputation along the East Coast as a "pre-eminent" sheep breeder, said Carroll County Cooperative Extension Service Acting Director David Greene.
Price breeds Hampshire sheep, which have black faces, ears and legs and white bodies. He has sold them to breeders in Del
aware, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, North Carolina and other Eastern states, who raise the animals for their wooland meat.
"He's provided a tremendous amount of leadership to thesheep industry in Maryland," Greene said.
A past president of theMaryland Sheep Breeders Association, Price has been active with the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, an annual show at the Howard Countyfairgrounds, Greene said.
The Prices also have opened their barn doors to countless school field trips and agriculture groups. For years, Jack Price patiently explained the difference between ewes and rams and talked about his operation.
The farm is divided almost evenly by Lemmon Road, with the house on one side and the barns on the other. The land surrounding the house is zoned residential, which allows homes on one-acre lots.
A number of potential buyers have lookedat the land, which is priced at $369,000, Ollie Price said.
The land surrounding the barn is zoned for agriculture. Jack Price said hedoesn't expect another sheep farmer to buy it but speculated that someone with a few horses or beef cattle might be interested.
The farmland is not on the market yet.
He said he plans to garden in hisretirement, but has no plans to
golf, fish or travel.
"I've dreaded it for a long time -- quitting," he said.
But with wool and lamb prices as low as he's ever seen them, and since he hasn't found a tonic to keep him young, Price said he decided this was the time toretire.
"I won't be sitting there with tears running down my cheeks because I'm not out with the sheep," he said. "I've had a long, interesting life with sheep. It's time to quit, and I'm enough of a realist to do it."