Wolff's Suffolks takes lamb from pasture to pizza

Wolff's Suffolks has been in the Suffolk industry for over 40 years. But recently, the ranch decided to diversify and sell their lamb to consumers and restaurants.

Ron Wolff is the second generation to tend to the Suffolk flock on the Wolff's farm. Photo taken April 26, 2022, in Oakes, North Dakota.
Emily Beal / Agweek

OAKES, N.D. — For 40 years, a flock of Suffolk sheep have grazed on pastures of the Wolff farm. The family is now in the third generation of raising the black-faced breed, and they've leaned into taking their products directly from pasture to plate — or pizza.

“I was a partner with my dad for many years. My dad is actually still alive, but my daughters bought his ewes out now. So we’ve been a family affair,” Ron Wolff said. “We’ve been raising Suffolk sheep this whole time, it’s kind of our passion. It’s a breed we’ve held on to.”

Ron Wolff is the second generation to tend to the flock of Suffolk and greatly enjoys the breed’s size and the stark contrast between their black heads and tan wool. Their flock encompasses 60 ewes that the Wolffs sell to 4-H members and other youth, as well as to fellow sheep breeders. Wolff enjoys working closely with the 4-H members who choose to show the Suffolk breed, as that is what he brought into the show arena during his 4-H years, as did his daughters. Now, the Wolff family takes their stock to national shows, such as The North American Livestock Expedition that takes place in Louisville, Kentucky each fall.

Wanting a way to expand their business, the Wolffs acquired their meat license from the state of North Dakota in order to sell their lamb directly to consumers. Their business venture proved to be extremely successful, as they now have about 40 head butchered each year to keep up with demand. Through this new avenue, the Wolffs have been able to sell all their products directly to consumers, businesses or other sheep enthusiasts.

Suffolk sheep
The Wolffs have had Suffolk sheep on their farm for over 40 years. Photo taken April 26, 2022, in Oakes, North Dakota.
Emily Beal / Agweek

“I am proud to say that we have not gone to the sale barn with lambs in the last three years,” Wolff said.


lamb meat
Ron Wolff was surprised when he had frequent requests for lamb heart from Wolff's Suffolk. Now, he makes sure to keep it stocked in his meat shed on his farm. Photo taken April 26, 2022, in Oakes, North Dakota.
Emily Beal / Agweek

On the farm, there is a meat shed lined with freezers full of Wolff’s Suffolk meat. From ribs to leg of lamb steak, there are a multitude of choices for consumers. Ron Wolff was particularly surprised with some of the requests and best-sellers, such as lamb heart, which he now keeps in stock.

In addition to selling their meat off the farm, Ron and his wife make the trek to the Red River Farmers Market in Fargo every other weekend from June through October to sell to consumers. The market has proven to be a vital part of their meat venture growing, as it has allowed them to make many crucial connections.

“I met Ron at the farmers market and talked to him and Beth and thought they were really cool. They started bringing ground lamb for me, and we’ve tried a few other cuts for things,” said Casey Absey, the founder and owner of Blackbird Woodfire Pizza located in downtown Fargo.

Blackbird is known for its unique woodfired pizzas. The restaurant not only uses the Wolff’s lamb on select pizzas, but also uses the meat for appetizers as well.

“I think it’s important to use all you can from around here because we are such a rich farming community,” Absey said. “Most of the customers appreciate that it comes from Ron’s farm.”

Casey Absey, owner of Blackbird Woodfire Pizza, connected with Ron Wolff at the Red River Farmers Market and decided to start using Wolff's lamb on his restaurant's pizzas. Photo taken April 29, 2022 in Fargo, North Dakota.
Emily Beal / Agweek

In addition to Blackbird Woodfire, Wolff said a new Lebanese restaurant in Fargo is also using their lamb in their dishes. The Wolffs enjoy connecting with consumers during their weekends at the Red River Farmers Market, believing it is more important now more than ever to tell the story of agriculture, as many consumers are wanting to listen to the story.

“They like the fact they know where it all comes from,” Wolff said.

Emily grew up on a corn, soybean and wheat farm in southern Ohio where her family also raises goats. After graduating from The Ohio State University, she moved to Fargo, North Dakota to pursue a career in ag journalism with Agweek. She enjoys reporting on livestock and local agricultural businesses.
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