Looking for a fun afternoon with the kids in New Jersey? We’ve got just the thing … cuddly animals, a farm tour, and delicious cheese. Pretty much perfect.
This past weekend brought us the most gorgeous weather we’ve seen in a long time. Beautiful blue skies, fluffy white clouds, hot but not too hot. You know, weather that summers are made of. Even though it’s not officially summer yet. And weather that was too gorgeous to not spend the entire day outside.
Which we did.
From 11 am until 11 pm.
Our afternoon brought us to the Valley Shepherd Creamery. Although I’ve heard of the creamery before, and it’s been on our “things to do” list for well over a year, it kept getting passed by.
Until this weekend.
Situated on 120 acres of preserved farmland, it has over 750 animals living on the premises, and is super simple to find. They do “lambing tours” twice a day, which was the main reason for our visit.
I mean, really. A chance to hang out with animals? No arm twisting needed.
The tour started with our guide, Amanda, explaining how the farm was started, what they have, and what they produce, and then we watched a short movie that showed how they make cheese, yogurt, and more. The creamery originally started with this location ten years ago. After the husband and wife team traveled all over Europe, learning how to make artisanal sheep milk cheeses, they came back and started the creamery, beginning first by using dynamite to blast out a section of their property so they could have authentic cave aged cheese in their own 52 degree cave. As their model proved successful, they have branched out a bit in different arenas. They can be found selling their items at 23 different farmers’ markets, including the one that we frequent in Summit on Sundays, and they have opened up a retail location in the Parks Slope area of Brooklyn. Capitalizing on their delicious cheese, they also have a popular stall at the Reading Market Terminal, Melt Craft, which features a wide variety of grilled cheese sandwiches, including one that has mac and cheese stuffed in it. Um yum.
Then we got a tour of the facility, including a look at their rotary milking parlor, which is where they milk their sheep, and the only machine of its kind. Later, we were able to see the machine in action as the sheep filed into the room, stepped on the carousel, got strapped in, ate their grain, and were milked while slowly rotating, all within minutes. It was quite something to see, and makes for a very efficient production (all the sheep are milked in two hours!).
Next up, cheese taste testing! So many cheeses, so little time. I was very proud of the kids, who tasted every cheese and only spit out half. ;) Our favorite was the Oldwick Shepherd, so creamy, followed by the Califon, both of which are worth seeking out.