|(LONG VALLEY) – Sheep usually bring to mind wool, not cheese. But
one clever farmer has taken the unusual and turned
it into a cutting edge business that combines preserved
farmland with an agri-tourism operation and direct
and wholesale marketing.
The New Jersey State Board of Agriculture today toured Valley Shepherd
Creamery in Long Valley, Morris County, which produces handmade cheeses using
sheep milk. The farm is currently milking 150 sheep on 120 acres of preserved
farmland. The operation includes an in-ground aging cave, built into a mountainside,
complete with a glass wall public viewing gallery.
“In New Jersey, some farmers are moving from traditional to innovative
farming, such as this sheep milk operation,” said New Jersey Agriculture
Secretary Charles M. Kuperus. “It is these farmers who access a unique
niche in the marketplace who will help make the agricultural industry strong
as we move ahead in the 21st century.”
Owner, Eran Wajswol, and State Board of Agriculture
President Peter Melick, outside Wajswol's cheese shop
Valley Shepherd Creamery is unique in that it is using a rotating milking parlor
for sheep; conveyor feeding belts for sheep; an underground aging cave; and employs
ultra modern animal waste management, turning the waste into compost for later
The farm also is an agri-tourism facility, offering tours of the facility and
an educational gallery.
The facility produces 400 pounds of sheep cheese each week, which is sold from
community farmers markets in New Jersey to fine food stores throughout the United
States. The operation also is a Grade A processor of yogurt, cream cheese and
other dairy products.
Valley Shepherd is a registered
Jersey Fresh Dairy Producer and Processor, the first operation licensed under
the new rule established by the New Jersey Department of Agriculture to aid in
Jersey Fresh milk marketing. In addition, the farm is utilizing the Garden State
Dairy Alliance – which provides support to dairy farmers to help sustain
a viable and thriving dairy industry in the state – as well as the milk
quality program to aid in the production of cheese and yogurt.
“Valley Shepherd is a good example of new-use agriculture that has growing
public acceptance,” said Secretary Kuperus. “New Jersey citizens
welcome these unique products produced on our Garden State farms. I believe we
will see more innovative agricultural operations and products in the future.”