Created in 2011, "Shepherdista" is a play on the words 'shepherd' and 'fashionista' as inspired by cheesemaker Seana's commitment to infuse some style and flair into her new-found agricultural pursuits....silver farm boots? Damn right. Wearing lipgloss when hauling milk cans? Of course. Shepherdista is made exclusively from the milk of dairy sheep who live and graze freely on open pastures. The cheese is made by hand and then aged for at least 3 months on wood shelves. We let the rind develop naturally and spontaneously - it's molds gone wild.
In December 2009 Seana took a big and risky leap of faith and purchased a starter flock without really knowing where or how she'd get a licensed dairy going. The ewes came from Swedish Mission Farm, a sheep dairy in Wisconsin (they have since shut down) and member farm of the Wisconsin Sheep Dairy Cooperative. These ewes were crosses between the East Friesian and Lacaune dairy breeds which are common throughout Europe.
Folks often ask: how did you come up with the name Bleating Heart®? Well....cows moo, goats and sheep bleat. From the Merriam-Webster dictionary:
bleat : to make the natural cry of a sheep or goat
It is a pun, a play on the term "bleeding heart" which is defined as "a person who shows extravagant sympathy especially for an object of alleged persecution." We certainly have extravagant sympathy for American food artisans, but mainly we just thought this name was funny. After all, our motto is making seriously good cheese without taking ourselves too seriously. All of our cheese names are conceived with that same spirit. Our basic rule is that if a name isn't sort of funny, we're not using it.
From the start, we chose to break from convention and not use our own given names, or the names of places within our region to identify our cheeses. This does not diminish the quality of our cheese, or the profound respect we have for the dairy farmers who work so diligently every day to produce the milk that goes into our cheeses, nor does it mean we don't take immense pride in our region. We just decided to take a non-traditional, more humorous approach. It's actually no different than how most craft brewers name their beers (and we are BIG fans of craft beer).
Here is the story of my journey from the Bay Area of California all the way to River Falls, WI to pick up my sheep. Along for the ride was my sister Jennifer, who was equally lacking in experience with driving a big ass 4x4 truck or driving in snowy/icy road conditions, let alone with livestock on board. So here's the lowdown on the 1 truck, 2 girls, 5 days, 10 sheep, and 4,200 miles that were......Operation Sheep-O-Rama. This is the initial map I put together for the trip, with tentative stopping points along the way.