In Northwest Georgia, these ewes are getting to enjoy some R and R before starting their next production cycle – a time in which they produce milk that will be made into artisan sheep’s milk cheeses. This of course, not a common practice here in the US, but is something Brent Smith and Hannah Walker set out to do four years ago and now have what they believe is the only sheep dairy in the state.
“We bought this farm in 2019 and there was nothing out here,” says Brent Smith, Co-Owner of Rosemary and Thyme Creamery. “There was no driveway, no covert, and no fences. There were pastures but the weeds were up about head high, so since 2019, we’ve been developing everything that’s out here. Um, and the first thing we built was the milking parlor and the creamery.”
After getting the farm up and running, they started working to build up their flock – one that produces the best quality milk and will do well here in Georgia.
“We have east Friesians and Saint Croix. East Friesians are the typical dairy breed. They have high quantity milk, so that usually gives them a little less butter fat, so adding the Saint Croix, not only are the Saint Croix parasite resistant, they also have more butter fat in their milk, so it helps make really great cheese and we want to get the Saint Croix parasite resistance into the flock down in Georgia just because there’s a lot of parasites down here in sheep,” says Hannah Walker, Co-Owner of Rosemary and Thyme.
As you can see however, their hard work has paid off. They’ve managed to build up a great flock and have perfected the cheese making process and now make several different types of delicious sheep’s milk cheeses that take the farmer’s markets in the area by storm – something they take great pride in as sheep’s milk cheese has quite the reputation around the world.
“Some of the best cheeses in the world are sheep’s milk cheeses,” says Smith. “Pecorino Murano out of Italy, Manchego out of Spain, Roquefort out of France – those are all award winning cheeses that are made out of sheep’s milk, and anywhere you travel throughout the rest of the world, people make cheese out of sheep’s milk, goat’s milk, and cow’s milk, and they probably have more cheeses made out of sheep and goat’s milk than they do cow’s milk, but in the United States, the cow dairy is the king of the dairies, and most of our cheeses are made out of cow’s milk cheeses.”
Unfortunately, though, Smith says that presents quite the challenge for them, as many don’t know about or have never had sheep’s milk cheese.
“People don’t know about sheep’s milk cheese, and some are not only hesitant, they don’t want to try, because they think they think it’s too different. So, they’re very hesitant to even try it. If we can get them to try it, over 90 percent of them really like it. So, it’s just the fact that we’re into a territory where people don’t really know about our product very much, and because of that we sample it and we try to educate,” says Smith.
By: John Holcomb