Dear Harmony Fields Customers,
Happy (almost) Valentine’s Day! We love you and have some news to share that pulls on our heartstrings. After a lot of deliberation, we are taking a break from cheesemaking in 2024. We need some time to upgrade our facility and adapt to the new and ever-increasing food safety regulations in dairy production. We also want to focus on time with our family this year.
Our plan is to remodel and expand parts of the creamery and attain 3rd party food safety certification in order to sell our cheeses, specifically La Bertha, through more wholesalers. We want to grow, but not too much. This effort is going to take a lot planning and, as we have learned over the last six seasons of running our solar-powered sheep creamery, it’s really hard to step back and look at what we’re doing critically when we’re in the throes of milking and making cheese constantly. As many people close to us know, it’s a 7-day a week commitment from April to September. Once the milk starts, our life can feel like a runaway train.
A little history, for those of you new to our farm. Our creamery plan was hatched with the USDA Value Added Product Grant Feasibility Study we completed in 2015 (right before our first daughter, June, was born!). Dean and I started building the new sheep barn when June was one and Eloise was still a little seed in my belly. It’s a long story, but we ultimately received the USDA VAPG Project Grant right after Eloise was born and had to use those funds (for supplies, labor, branding, packaging, and small equipment) immediately to launch our cheese business. I have come to learn that the USDA does not have a maternity clause in their grants (Trust me, I called a lot of higher-ups about this!), so we had to use that money right away (vs deferring a year or two). It was a great business funding opportunity we couldn’t pass up, despite the busyness of our new family life!
In many ways, taking the deep dive into parenting and dairying simultaneously created a healthy symmetry to our life and if you have read any of my creative writing you will know how raising sheep has helped me be a better mother. Our farmstead creamery felt like a haven during the pandemic years, insulating us from a hectic and uncertain time. It was a relief to be at home with young babes and lambs and I felt very grounded by our daily routines.
So, while this all feels a little odd to write, I have learned that farming only allows you so much time within a growing season and there are always new lessons to learn. This year, the lesson is to embrace the pause. Instead of plowing through the summer, our extended off-season will allow us the chance to get caught up on the many (many!) little projects we just don’t have time to complete during a normal farm season and get these larger developments in motion. We will be spending a lot of time with extended family as well. I have been writing grants and reaching out for advice and consultations with cheese experts and dairy specialists. I have been relishing in how far we have come and how much we have learned in such a short period of time. This creamery really was an old, funky shipping container (see above) at one point not that long ago!
We will have lamb and wool products available all year, so that is a great way to continue to support the farm. Please feel free to reach out with any questions. While we may have some select cheeses available, we will not be able to offer our beloved CSA this year. Thank you to all that have participated in our Summer Sheep Cheese CSA. Your support has meant so much to us and you will be the first to know about 2025 plans! (Don’t worry, I still fully intend to lamb-spam you in April as usual.)
Thank you all for your continued support of what we do!
With much love,
xoxoJessica & Dean and the Harmony Fields flock