Monday, April 20, 2009

Valley Shepherd Creamery

We took the boys on a family outing this weekend to Valley Shepherd Creamery.  What an interesting place.  It is a small sheep farm in New Jersey where they use the sheep's milk to make farmstead cave aged cheeses.  They have about 600 sheep on the farm at capacity which actually makes them one of the three largest sheep farms in the country.  Every spring hundreds of lamb are born on the farm.  The sheep are all grass fed in the fields.  For a small artisanal process, they are very sophisticated.  They do genetic testing on their animals and have imported specialized equipment from all over europe for milking.  Here is their rotary milking system. 

 The sheep are loaded into a stall, hooked up to the the milking machine, then they rotate around on the machine for about two minutes.  When they are done being milked, the harness around their necks open up and, on their own, the sheep get out and head back down the ramp to the barn.  

We got to take a tour of the barns and milking system and saw the greenhouse were they keep all the new born lambs.  Here is my nine year old holding a 10 day old lamb.  
Then we got to go to the sheep shoppe where they sell all the fresh and aged cheeses.  

All the aged cheeses spend two to fourteen months aging in a cave carved out of the side of a hill on the property.  We picked up some pure sheep's whey ricotta and pure sheep's milk Ewegurt and several aged cheeses all made from raw milk including smoked gouda, blue cheese and one called Valley Thunder which is a hand milled, crumbly sharp cheddar.  All their cheeses are sold at their farm store, farmers markets in the NY/NJ area and at some select specialty cheese shops around the country.  They sell out all the cheese they can make every year.

What an incredible experience to see how they operate.  They have farm tours every weekend throughout the summer, they also teach cheese making classes and Saturday, May 2nd is their annual sheep shearing festival.  You can check that out here.  Delicious!

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like an awesome place. We'll have to make time to visit this spring or summer.