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Local: Who is in the 1% of sheep milk cheese artisans in America?

Local: Who is in the 1% of sheep milk cheese artisans in America?

Since 99% of sheep cheese is imported, Rachel, daughter of the Stuart and Connie Veldhuizen, is carving out a local niche of domestic sheep milk cheeses on their family dairy farm outside of Dublin, Texas. Veldhuizen Cheese has a well-known history of farmstead, handcrafted artisan cheese where they are “doing things naturally –for our family, our animals, and our land”.

True to her upbringing, Rachel began raising dairy sheep, two and half years ago, when her young family moved back from Africa where they were missionaries. She was happy to join the family farm and has successfully increased her herd of dairy sheep to 50 ewes today.

I grew up in Wyoming where sheep herds were what most ranchers raised for lamb chops because of the cool, dry climate. This was one of my main questions when I talked with Rachel; what breed of sheep can stand this heat and humidity. I know I have a hard-enough time and do not have a wool coat on my back!

Rachel chose two breeds of dairy sheep for longer lactation and the creamy, rich raw milk for making quality cheese; the Awassi and East Friesian breeds.

Stuart introducing his granddaughter to a new lamb.  Photo from Facebook page.

Earlier this spring, when the sheep are lambing and the milking is twice a day, the first rounds (tommes) of sheep milk cheese were handcrafted and entered “The Cave” to be cared for with regular turnings for 3 to 5 months of aging. All calculated, the first two varieties of raw sheep milk cheese are just starting to become available for sale.

Fat Tail Tomme is a manchego style cheese, which Rachel describes as “the sweetness comes from the milk and the olive oil used on the natural rind is reminiscent of fruits.”  And a fun, whimsical name!

Sheep Milk Gouda is nice and soft on the palate and is less sharp than cow’s milk. Rachel was pleased with the eye formation (holes found in gouda) and noted that the cheese has been given good reviews.

So why is 99% of sheep milk cheese imported? Because Europeans countries understand that traditional farmers and their artisan products are important, therefore the small farmers require financial assistant. European government will subsidize 40% per acre/animal to compete in the world market. Not here from USDA.

Rachel is relying on customers to understand that a quality, traditionally and naturally made sheep milk cheese will be supporting the land, ewes, aging time and work that goes into each wholesome creamy bite.

Where to find Veldhuizen Cheese?

Veldhuizen Cheese Shoppe and Tours available on farm
Texas stores and restaurants

My first visit to Veldhuizen Cheese in 2010.

Follow up on this article: My visit to a sheep farm and creamery in the Basque Country in northern Spain – yeah, fascinating.  And then out to visit my long time friends, the Veldhuizens when it cools down this fall.

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