Over the past few weeks I've been working on a Frequently Asked Questions sheet for the farm that will go on our website. I'd love to get y'all's input. Do I address all the questions you might ask about the farm? Are the answers sufficient? Have I left anything out that you're burning to know? Please let us know by leaving a comment. Thanks!
Manyfold Farm FAQ
When are the sheep coming?
Our first sheep are scheduled to come in March of 2010.
When will you have cheese?
If all goes well, we will have our first fresh cheeses by the spring of 2011. Soft aged cheeses will come by the fall of 2012, and hard aged cheeses by winter of 2013. This is totally, and completely subject to change and probably will.
Will you have any goats or cows?
We plan to have a few Nigerian Dwarf goats and a couple of cows or steers. Our main reason for the cows is to assist with pasture management. Cows do a good job maintaining pasture quality and help to break the parasite cycle in sheep. The Nigerian Dwarf goats are just for fun and a bit of fluid goat milk for us on the side.
What about lamb? When will you have some?
We plan to have lamb in the spring and fall of each year. Lamb will be sold directly to individual customers and restauraunts on-the-hoof, primarily, though we are considering selling by the cut if there is enough interest. The earliest we will have lamb will be spring of 2011.
Will you have any other products?
We will have eggs by fall of 2010. We are planning to have pork, chicken, and rabbit within the first five years.
Where will you be selling?
Our plan is to sell both retail and wholesale. Our primary market will be the metro Atlanta area. We plan to have a small store on the farm as well, provided the City allows us. We will branch out to other markets as our business grows. If you are a retail outlet or wholesale distributer that is interested in purchasing local artisan cheese or high-quality pasture-based meats, we’d love know who you are! Drop us a line: [email protected]
Why did you choose sheep?
Antoine de Saint-Exupery (you know, the guy who wrote The Little Prince) said, “If someone wants a sheep, then that means that he exists.” We agree. There is something about them that just feels good and right. Apart from that, there are 5 other reasons:
1) Sheep’s milk has the highest butterfat per litre content of any ruminant. Therefore, sheep efficiently turn grass into the highest quality of the stuff you need to make cheese with the least amount of waste (whey).
2) Because of the high-quality and rich taste of most sheep cheeses, they fetch the highest prices.
3) Lamb, the natural by-product of dairying, is a delicious, high-value item.
4) Sheep are easier to manage than cattle or goats. Sheep flock well, so they are easy to move. They are very complacent animals, unlike goats. And unlike cattle, if one charges you, you’re going to end up with a broken arm or leg, as opposed to dead.
5) Sheep, because of their small body mass, are very beneficial to pasture under management-intensive systems.
What kinds of sheep do you have?
We are planning to use East Freisians and East Fresian/Gulf Coast Native crosses for our dairy flock. We will also maintain an meat flock of Katahdin sheep while we are developing our dairy genetics.
How do you make cheese?
Cheese is made by carefully controlling the decay and spoilage of milk. It is an ancient process of fermentation, much like that of beer, wine, or pickles, that was used to preserve nutrient rich milk over winter and in lean times. The process involves the removal of water from the milk solids through the use of bacteria and the enzyme chymosin (rennet) which is furthered by a process of stirring, cutting, and pressing. Once the water is removed to an appropriate level, the cheese is aged in order to develop flavor.
I’m so excited! Why does everything seem to take so long?
I know. But patience is everything in farming. When you’re working with nature and natural processes, things take time. In addition, we’ve never built a business before, and so we figure slow and steady wins the race.
I love Gruyere! Will you make Gruyere?
No. Unequivocally no. The French make perfect Gruyere, there is nothing we can do to improve upon it. We won’t make Emmental, either, or Gouda, or Pecorino, or any other cheese you may already know and love. We believe that a cheese directly corresponds to the unique flavors and characteristics of a particular region. We would never presume to re-create the unique environment of the French alps in our cheese. What we will do is work to capture new flavors from a place that has never really seen cheese before: West Central Georgia.
Will you make raw cheese or pasteurized cheese?
Both. If we could only make raw cheese and still be able to sell a wide variety of cheeses, we would. However, due to state law and regulations, many of the cheeses we wish to produce must be pasteurized for legal sale. We believe that raw cheeses are superior in terms of nutrition and taste. We also believe they are perfectly safe to eat if they come from a creamery that is clean, that keeps its animals in excellent health, and that feeds its animals very little if any grain and no silage whatsoever.
Are raw cheeses safe to eat?
There is a great deal of controversy about the safety of raw cheeses in government regulatory agencies. Some cheeses, like fresh cheese and yogurt, must be pasteurized to legally sell. Other cheeses that can be aged past 60 days are considered safe by most state regulations when consumed raw. The logic behind this law is that most dangerous bacteria will either make their presence known or will die off before 60 days elapse. However, this does not necessarily guarantee safety. The bacteria listeria monocytogenes produces a lethal toxin in milk that lingers despite pasteurization and despite the number of days the cheese is aged. Its primary vector is through unprocessed milk that is left for too many days at too high a temperature. Pasteurization may kill the bacteria, but the toxin it produces is still present. Milk can also be contaminated with clostridium botulinum if the animal is fed silage or other fermented feeds. Although, after 60 days, cheese with this contamination will usually explode, so it’s safe to say that it gets noticed. Most other vectors for contamination of milk comes from animals that are unhealthy. The best way to ensure that the cheese you want to eat is safe is to buy from farms that process their milk very soon after it comes from the animal, that has a clean facility, and that keeps its animals in excellent health, feeds little or no grain, and that does not feed its milking animals silage or other fermented feeds.
Why won’t you make “vegetarian cheese”?
Two reasons: taste and ethics. Vegetable-based rennets typically yield a slightly bitter note in cheeses we wish to avoid. Vegetable-based rennets are also something of a misnomer. They are actually derived from a genetically-modified bacteria that produces chymosin (the enzyme in rennet that causes the water to separate from the milk solids and for those solids to gel). Therefore, it’s not really a “vegetable-based” product. We are ethically opposed to the use of GMO’s in foods. There are true vegetable rennets that can be derived from thistle and other plants, but they are not currently legal in the US and typically yield a strongly bitter taste in the finished cheese.
Will you be certified organic? What will you feed your animals?
Probably not. Organic certification is a cumbersome process that we feel is not altogether necessary in order to market our products successfully. We are a grass-based farm, which means that all our animals eat grass and other forages on the land. Some animals, like chickens, require more than what the grass alone can provide, so we supplement them with a certified organic feed. Dairy ewes will probably also receive a small grain supplement at milking that will be certified organic.
Will you be certified humane?
Maybe. We’re learning what goes into this certification. We will, without a doubt be a humane facility to the highest degree, but we’re still learning about the positives and negatives of this certification.
Why do you want to be in farming?
Ha! The answer to this question could go on for pages. It’s something we are constantly surprised by. The short answer is that we have cultivated a love of food and a love of land throughout our lives. We love to work with our bodies and minds together, and we are constantly amazed, in awe, and humbled by nature. It makes us happy and we feel good doing it.
Can I come visit the farm?
Absolutely! Just give us a call or drop us an email. Come spend the day or just an hour, bring a picnic. Better still, come on a volunteer day and help us weed whack, or build a bridge, or clean chicken houses. . .