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Petaluma sheep farmers find new market for their milk

  • Sheep wait to be milked at Haverton Hill Creamery in Petaluma on Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. (BETH SCHLANKER / The Press Democrat)

To the delight of two young girls in rubber boots, a dairy truck with a famous bovine painted on its side backed slowly one recent morning into the main yard of Haverton Hill Creamery to pick up the new shipment of milk.

As the girls and two border collies scampered about the dirt and gravel, Joe Adiego and two farmworkers readied a forklift with something new in Clo the Cow Country: crates of glass bottles filled with the cream-rich milk of woolly ewes, not stout-legged Holsteins or doe-eyed Jerseys.

Indeed, the Adiego family’s creamery outside Petaluma appears to be the first in the nation to bottle sheep milk and send it off to grocery stores. Its owners hope to build a following among the multitudes looking for alternatives to what comes out of a cow’s udder.

Haverton Hill Creamery

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Missy Adiego, Joe’s wife, acknowledged the first question she typically hears from consumers is one that she herself once uttered: “Wait, you can milk sheep?”

But Adiego and her husband maintain that many who try the milk consider it among the most delicious they’ve ever consumed.

“It’s really tasty,” she said. The flavor is “nothing like goat’s milk.” Rather, it is akin to what you get from a cow but “with a slightly sweeter, nuttier taste.”

Moreover, they and others said, many who suffer lactose intolerance find that they can digest sheep’s milk.

The sweeping grasslands of west Marin and Sonoma counties have long been dairy country. The cow dairies here provide the creamy product for longtime processor Clover Stornetta Farms, for which Clo the Cow is Sonoma County’s most-recognized business mascot. As well, the region in the last 15 years has become home to more than two dozen artisan cheese makers.

But the ranks of dairy farmers have declined here under intense competition. Survival often has required finding a niche, at times by switching to organic production, cheese making or, rarely, milking sheep or goats.

The Adiegos are partners in Haverton Hill with Joe’s parents, Tony and Jolene Adiego. Their creamery sits on an old cow dairy just outside the hamlet of Bloomfield. Joe and Missy Adiego live there with their daughters, Avery, 6, and Hadley, 4, who still get excited when the Dairy Delivery truck with the Clo the Cow logo comes for the sheep milk.


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