About this project
At Shepherd’s Way Farms, we raise sheep, milk sheep, and make their milk into award-winning cheese. Our family (Shepherd Steven, Cheesemaker Jodi, and our four boys) has been raising sheep since 1994 and making cheese since 1998. But, we need to make more cheese, enough to make ends meet, to make the farm truly sustainable. It is time to make more cheese!
But to do that, we need more sheep milk. And to produce more milk, we need more sheep – and those sheep need a warm home.
Please help us build the sheep barns so we can grow the flock and make more cheese! With your help, we can finish the repurposed lambing barn in time for this season's lambs and begin rebuilding the ewe (mama sheep) barn. With you, we can be an example of sustainable, small family farming that works!
What do you get?
Check out the rewards! We’ve gathered some of our favorites for you – Spring Fling farm party, beautiful lamb notecards, private farm events, cheese tasting parties, t-shirts, and of course, our artisan sheep milk cheese!
Cheese=Parties! So we're bringing you the cheese at some of the most happening Twin Cities locations! We're so grateful to our food community friends for helping us put together these cool rewards!
Can't make it to the Twin Cities? We can send you some lamb love with our notecards, a limited edition farm poster, or you can 'adopt' a lamb and we'll send a lamb photo and more!
How We Got Here
Neither of us grew up on a farm, and we both had other careers (writer/editor and teacher) but we wanted a different way of living. We chose farming because we wanted a family-centered way of life that allowed for creativity and a dedication to the land, the animals and, well, hard work. And we got it!
We're lucky to be part of the whole food microsystem-- raising pasture-based sheep, whey-fed pigs, chickens; milking, making cheese, connecting with our customers & community. Living where we work, immersed in the rhythms of farm life, grounds us and inspires us.
Like many farms, we’ve faced a lot of challenges – some of them bigger than others. A fire in 2005 set us back significantly. We lost all of our animal housing (a big sheep barn and a warm lamb barn), our lambs, and more than half of our milk-producing flock.
With fewer ewes we had much less milk. We made significantly less cheese and cut back to absolute basic necessities. It was a tough stretch but we made it through, thanks to the kindness and encouragement of so many people committed to sustainable farming and artisan cheese.
In 2010, we formed a Slow Money investment group, Farm Haven. With the generous support of these dedicated private individuals we were able to relaunch our cheesemaking. By 2011 we started increasing cheese production, slowly re-entering the bigger marketplace.
Now it is time to grow, take another step forward! We have many pieces in place already. This year we were awarded a USDA Value Added Producer Grant to help expand cheese production and our wool products & specialty meats. To increase cheesemaking, our flock must grow to provide more milk. But our USDA grant only applies to things we produce -- it can't be used for farm buildings or animals. So, we are turning to the Kickstarter community!
Farming is a complex business, especially when value-added aspects like cheesemaking, specialty meats and wool products are included. Increasing production for one part of the farm often requires the other parts to grow at the same time. Increasing our flock is a big, and expensive, but necessary step toward being truly sustainable. Kickstarter is one part of this step. Kickstarter offers us a unique way to connect with those who care about what we do, enjoy our products and want to see us thrive. With you and Kickstarter, we can grow our farm and grow our farmfriends community!
All About the Barns
Our sheep spend lots of time outdoors, even in the winter if they choose, but in our blustery winters they need a warm, safe shelter. The space we’ve used the last few years can’t hold very many sheep.
Without enough winter sheep housing, we've had to keep our flock smaller (about ¼ the original, necessary number of sheep). But, with such a small number of sheep we can only produce a limited amount of cheese. To get ready to grow, we needed to replace the barns lost in the fire.
Finishing the Lambing Barn
We’re already part way there! We took an unusual approach to replacing the lamb barn. In 2007 we moved the historic Big Woods Dairy Barn (the top half) four miles to our farm. Not only does saving this classic barn replace the lamb barn, it also preserves local history.
In 2013 we finally added support walls and enclosed the building. But, it still needs a new roof, electricity, a warming room, and a few other details that will help us care for the lambs and moms. It is almost ready for winter and with you, we can get it ready for lambing!
The original ewe barn was perpendicular to our milking parlor barn and was a bright, airy but warm-in-winter shelter. We’ll begin rebuilding the ewes a 60 ft x 80 ft Lester-style building on the same site, which will provide an open, inviting haven from the elements. The barn will be funded partially with more traditional financing, along with support from our CSA memberships and product sales. With your help, the funds raised here will allow construction to get underway now!
We make every wheel of our artisan sheep cheese by hand on the farm. Rich, creamy sheep milk is perfect for farm-made artisan cheese. Our sheep milk cheeses are made in several styles – aged, natural rind; fresh; blue; soft-ripened bloomy rind, -- including Big Woods Blue, Friesago, Hidden Falls, Shepherd’s Hope, Burr Oak, Morcella and Shepherd’s Whey Ricotta. Many of our cheeses are multiple American Cheese Society award winners! And, other cheeses are in development -- once we have more milk, we can make more cheese, and new cheeses!
You can find our cheeses locally at Twin Cities farmers markets and at Minnesota cheese shops, co-ops, specialty grocery stores and restaurants. It is also available nationally in limited quantities. With more milk, we will be able to make cheese for more folks!
To take this step, we must raise the full amount. One dollar short, and it just won't work. We think you'll love the rewards! Join us as a Farm Backer and please share our story on Facebook, Twitter & email.
This is an amazing community – those who love sheep, farming, and good food – we’re lucky to have been included and supported by so many. We love sharing what we do. And we can’t imagine doing anything else quite as rewarding. Thank you for joining us!
Some fun coverage about Shepherd's Way! Thank you for all the support!:
With thanks and recognition of beautiful & generous work for Shepherd's Way Farms Kickstarter -- Rob Perez, filmmaker. Robb Long, iconic Shepherd photo. Thank you!
Risks and challenges
Every venture has its risks, and farming has more than its share. This project's risks include construction delays, weather setbacks, and the complications related to the cycles of farming. We have assembled a solid team and, with 20 years of farming experience and 15+ years of cheesemaking, are well-equipped to manage any obstacles.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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