Located in southeastern Minnesota, Shepherd's Way Farms is owned by Steven Read & Judi Ohlsen. Together with their four sons, Steven and Judy have worked tirelessly to develop the farm as a sheep dairy and cheesemaking operation, producing their first cheese, Friesago, in 1998.
Other cheeses have also followed: Queso Fresco de Oveja, and Big Woods Blue, together with Hidden Falls, Harmand, and a traditional Ricotta that are available on a limited basis.
The sheep at Shepherd's Way are almost entirely Friesian crosses and are rotationally grazed on home pasture.
Against this backdrop, in January of 2005 the Read family suffered a devastating tragedy when a large-scale fire destroyed two barns containing two thirds of their 550 milking ewe flock, and their entire crop of 200 new lambs.
Rather than giving up, the Reads decided to try and rebuild their lives and their business, which they are now doing with the help of friends and supporters. They are utterly committed to the project and are now in a position where they are able to produce their cheeses once more.
In 2007, Jodi was able to re-commence cheesemaking and they are starting to sell more cheese as it becomes available.
Comparable in style to a Spanish Manchego, Friesago is formed in gouda type molds and pressed to expel much of the whey. Finished wheels are brined before being dipped in black wax to protect them during maturation.
The resulting cheese has a firm, slightly granular texture with no eyes of holes. The interior paste is a pale yellow color.
Flavors are balanced and sweet with a slightly piquant, tangy finish.