We're so excited to introduce our newest partnership with producers we personally know who share our values of sustainability and conscientious management. Randal and Carol Stoker are artisan producers of raw sheep cheese produced with the ancient methods used by Mediterranean sheepherders in the Alps. Randal actually spent several years in Italy as a young man experiencing this style of cheese making, a skill also honed during his childhood as a third-generation dairyman. After several years of producing cow milk products, he and Carol have found their passion making alpine-style sheep milk cheese.
What sets alpine sheep cheese apart from conventionally produced cheese is the history. This type of cheese originates from European sheepherders who grazed their sheep in the lush meadows of the Alps. The cheeses were made during the grazing season and stored in alpine caves. In the fall, the sheepherders brought the sheep and the cheese back to the valley for the winter. Therefore, all alpine-style cheeses are made from whole sheep milk and are typically aged from 3-6 months. Mountain Valley Farmstead, to the extent possible, follows this traditional method of grazing, cheese making, and aging to bring a flavor reminiscent of those you'll find in Italy and other parts of Europe. Randal and Carol accomplish this in both their cheesemaking process and in the genetics of their sheep, which are three-way crosses of European genetics: East Friesian from Germany, Lacaune from France, and British Milk Sheep from Great Britain. In our culture of mass-produced, mechanized food, Carol and Randal are traditionalists who share our desire to learn from ancient agricultural practices.
In terms of the cheese itself, sheep cheese is much more flavorful than cheese produced from cow's milk. It's sweeter, and, because it's aged, just a bit sharper. It's also a bit more delicate in texture. As for the nutritional benefits, sheep milk has about three times the protein of cow's milk, contains all 10 essential amino acids, includes Omegas 3 & 6, is more digestible than cow's milk, and is higher in vitamins and minerals. Besides this, Carol and Randal never use antibiotics on their sheep, so you don't have to ever be concerned about trace antibiotics in the cheese. Carol and Randal's sheep also produce milk high in A2 protein rather than A1, which some say is more easily digestible, especially for those with lactose intolerance.
Carol and Randal's farm is in Carmen, Idaho, which is located a little over an hour from Alderspring Ranch. As in our other partnerships with protein producers, we don't take your trust in us and our consistent quality lightly. This is why it's so important that we know Randal and Carol personally, have visited their farm, and have sampled their cheese. On all counts, they share our standards of quality, integrity, and sustainability. Their cheeses are made in small batches and produced, processed, and packaged on Mountain Valley Farmstead. Perhaps most importantly, they have a personal and genuine passion for their sheep and for the cheese they conscientiously produce.