Roy Deppa grew up in Gaithersburg, Maryland. As a child and teen, he worked with his parents and siblings on his family’s nursery, Country Gardens, on Route 355 where Montgomery Village is now located. Those early experiences contributed to Roy’s love of nature, his respect for the land and its creatures, and an appreciation for the value of hard work.
Roy spent most of his professional career working for the federal government. But he never strayed far from his roots. Upon purchasing an 18-acre farm in Brookeville, Maryland, he crafted a vision of how the land might be used to support his values, energy, skills, and resourcefulness. That led him to Jacob sheep, and the idea of conserving a rare heritage breed.
In order to learn about sheep breeding in general and Jacobs in particular, Roy visited several prominent Jacob flocks in the United Kingdom, as well as Jacob breeders in the United States. With the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival located right up the road, he was ready in 1987 to purchase his first lambs, two ewes and a ram. He started small, but the flock grew steadily. He overcame an early setback when, in 1990, the flock was attacked twice by neighborhood dogs that killed all but three of his sheep. Following that devastating attack, Roy added an animal protector to the flock: a miniature Sicilian donkey named Giuseppe. Giuseppe lives with the sheep, goes after predators, and calls for Roy when the sheep are in distress.
Caring for the Brighton Flock has been a family pursuit. Roy's daughter, Janetta, was raised with the sheep, literally from infancy. Roy shared his knowledge about Jacobs with Janetta and encouraged her to experience and partake in everything involved in the care of the flock, so that she grew to become a fine shepherd herself. She first attended the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival in a baby stroller, learned how to handle Jacobs in the showring, and now travels from her home in Oregon whenever she can to participate in the springtime Festival. Janetta loves nothing more than to join the flock in the pasture and spend time communing with them.
When Roy and Karen married in 2009, she and her sons, Nate and Garrett, had already been helping Roy and Janetta at the Festival for a couple of years. Karen now serves as Poplar Spring Farm’s support shepherd, recordkeeper, and webmaster. Nate and Garrett, meanwhile, learned how to care for and work with the flock, especially around Festival time. This experience has given them a perspective and appreciation for farm life that most suburban kids never get. Nate and Garrett still come home to participate in the Festival when their work and school schedules allow.
Because of our positive experiences introducing our children to the responsibilities of caring for sheep, we love to help young families start flocks of their own. Find out how!
The primary goal of our breeding program is to conserve the Jacob breed in its original form. We support the goals of The Livestock Conservancy and the Jacob Sheep Conservancy (JSC). Roy strongly supported the JSC in its infancy, serving as President for three years in the early days of the organization, and again from 2007 through 2021.
We recognize that while there are breed standards that specify certain characteristics of the markings, the Jacob is a primitive breed that carries quite a lot of variability around those "ideal" markings. With that in mind, we try to have the overall appearance of our flock represent the average breed markings, and yet have some individuals in the flock with considerable variation around that average. We have both two- and four-horned sheep in our flock. The Brighton flock displays quite a lot of variation in wool characteristics as well. We stay within the guidelines of the JSC breed standard, yet enjoy the wonderful diversity displayed in our flock.
Roy began the Brighton flock with sheep from the Old Orchard (Pennsylvania), Fieldwood (New York), and Barking Rock (Pennsylvania) Jacob flocks. Other flocks that have contributed to the Brighton flock breeding program over the years include Limnaki (Washington), Frogmore (Virginia), Hardy Hill (Ohio), and in more recent years, Unzicker (Pennsylvania). We have taken care to choose breeders whose philosophy about the conservation of the Jacob breed is similar to ours.
We believe in giving back to the Jacob sheep community. In order to help educate people about the Jacob breed, our family has sponsored the Jacob Breed Display at the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival for many years.
In the interest of promoting the Jacob breed, we also have shown our sheep at the Festival's Jacob show and participated in the annual Parade of Breeds.
Roy strongly supported the Jacob Sheep Conservancy (JSC) in its infancy, serving as President for three years in the early days of the organization, and again from 2007-2021, during which time Karen served as Secretary of the JSC. Roy has also volunteered as a guest judge for the Jacob Show at the Garden State Sheep and Wool Festival at the Hunterdon County Fairgrounds in New Jersey.