Located up Bloomfield Road, about a mile from Stormy’s Restaurant, is Haverton Hill Creamery. It is a dairy sheep ranch operated by the Adiego family, Joe and Missy, their two young daughters, Avery and Hadley, and Joe’s parents, Tony and Jolene. And according to Missy Adiego, they are the only creamery in the United States that bottles sheep milk.
The Adiegos run their ranch with about 900 East Friesian dairy sheep on the Bloomfield property that they leased in 2010 and “renovated from top to bottom.”
Joe Adiego grew up in Petaluma in a farming family, raising cattle; Tony Adiego, himself a rancher, has worked for years at Arolo Company, managing pump, well and dairy machinery.
Missy grew up in upstate New York, on and around horse farms. She and Joe have raised their girls on this ranch, along with keeping the sheep herd and a variety of sheep dogs. Up until a few years ago, Missy says that she didn’t even know you could drink sheep’s milk.
Most of the sheep that are pastured in western Sonoma County are meat sheep, not dairy sheep. But after learning that sheep’s milk has long been available in Europe, Missy and Joe decided to bottle and distribute the milk from their flock, rather than sell it off to other producers for incorporation into other products.
They do still sell a portion of the milk they produce to nearby Bellwether Farms for cheese, and they are contemplating manufacturing their own sheep milk butter and ice cream at sometime in the future. But right now, they have created a niche market for bottled sheep milk.
The sheep are pastured on 378 acres of ranch land. They graze in organic fields, and are rotated among the various pastures to prevent overuse of the land. The sheep are milked year-round, and feed is supplemented in the drier parts of the year. Because of the Adiegos’ expertise with cow dairies, Haverton Hill is set up like a cow dairy and each ewe is scanned into the system so production can be monitored.
The milk is bottled onsite at the ranch to make sure it is as fresh as possible. The creamery that the Adiegos constructed is mobile, in the event it needs to be moved. It contains a bottling machine that was specially built for them by a Mennonite company in Idaho, and allows for bottling the product in glass bottles, which are returnable, recyclable and odor free.
Even though these sheep eat the same amount of feed as goats, they only produce half as much milk, yielding about 400 quarts of milk a week. On the flip side, sheep’s milk contains triple the amount of protein as cow’s milk, and is higher in calcium and a variety of essential vitamins. It is also an alternative to cow’s milk for those who are lactose intolerant, since it contains less lactose than cow’s milk.
Because of the lower production, the price point for the milk is higher; a quart costs about $11.99, compared to $6.99 for goat’s milk. But, says Missy, it has a “much cleaner, richer flavor, not so goaty.”
You can purchase Haverton Hill Sheep Milk at Oliver’s Markets, Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco and the Santa Rosa Community Market. Haverton Hill also just entered into contract with Whole Foods northern California stores, and they are trying to place their product in other local groceries.