Adventure Travel,  Culinary Travel,  Sustainable Agriculture

Artisan Cheese: A Tale of the Sheep, the Goat and the Cow

Sustainable agriculturists have upped the ante. Chefs and farmers agree that organic farming just makes sense. Doctors have gone on record that buying produce locally makes for healthier living. I recently caught up with Parker Bosley, a champion of regional eating and now working with the Innovative Farmers of Ohio. His job is getting the consumer involved in the discussion about their eating choices.

Parker explained the benefits of small farms to the local economy. Just an acre of land can provide employment for three people. The movement for small, artisan operations is gaining momentum on both sides of that pond we call the Atlantic. The Farmer’s markets, neighborhood deli shops and some really great chefs are instrumental in getting the consumers involved.

Right now, Ohio is focusing its resources on the Sheep Milk and Cheese Initiative. This initiative is focused on establishing a name for artisan sheep cheeses for Ohio farmers. My research shows that Vermont, the Cascades and California are also focusing their energies on the project. I decided to do some of my own research.

Now for the tale of the sheep, the goat and the cow. Being locked in a dairy bar during milking when I was three and growing up next to a dairy farm has more than prepared me for expert status on cow cheese. Not to mention that I absolutely LOVE Cheese! ( We won’t go into the trauma to my psyche about the barn incident). I needed more research on the goat and the sheep.

Luckily there is a goat farm just a couple of miles from my house. I usually travel by each week. I am planning to see how this farming family is using organic farming techniques to produce their cheeses. So far I have not been able to schedule the time. I had to instead visit the cheese counter at my favorite regional market. Quite tasty! Of course, I have had more than my fair share of Feta over the years.

Now for the sheep cheese. You may remember that I grew up in the foothills of the Appalachians. These hills were settled by Scots and Scotch Irish farmers around two hundred years ago. Today’s farmers in this region really know their sheep! If you are looking for an artisan sheep cheese, here is where you can find it. In fact, Ohio farmers are looking toward some nearby states to share their stories of the sheep.

This is only a beginning step. Parker is really passionate about bringing European expertise to American farmers. He hope to send a delegation to France to immerse themselves in artisan sheep cheese production. “Quality cheeses begin with the grasses the sheep eat. It is important to understand the whole cycle of cheese production, not just the fundamentals learned in a workshop. Here in the states we have lost the artistry through our large production farms. We need to go back to the basics that have not been lost on Europe,” Parker explained.

Looking for like minded consultants led me to San Francisco’s Anne Suire. Anne, with her French background is also passionate about cooperative projects between French and US farmers. She also shares my love for regional travel and organizes luxury tours to vineyards and farms in France. I am looking forward to seeing how both Parker and Anne will approach the farmer to consumer dialogue.

I did wonder why the interest in Sheep cheese. I have always found it fairly pungent. My research led me to the Cooking Channel’s Foodography. Here host Mo Rocco introduced me to Le Petit Basque. This artisan sheep cheese was first introduced in 1997 from France’s Basque region.

Los Angeles’ animal restaurant executive chef, Vinny Dotolo shared his recipe for melted petit basque with chorizo and grilled bread. I am now on the way to the cheese counter to find my own. Looks like it will be cheese for dinner tonight.

Check out this recipe or just take the time to search out a few artisan cheeses. If you are close enough to a cheese production farm, you can save by buying direct. Otherwise look for specialty cheese counters in your local market or farmer’s markets. I even ran into a farmer’s stand in trendy Tremont that was selling his sheep cheese one Saturday morning just a few weeks ago.

Let me know which you prefer, the sheep, the goat or the cow. Either way you are entering the dialogue about sustainable agriculture and healthy eating.

Brenda is the force behind Gemma Event Marketing Associates. She launched Oh!! Gemma to highlight how her buddies and associates are using event marketing to extend their conversations with their clients and customers.