Shepherd's Way Farms

Cheesemaker Jodi Ohlsen Read holding a wheel of cheese in front of the sheep pasture
Cheesemaker Jodi Ohlsen Read of Shepherd's Way Farms

Steven Read and Jodi Ohlsen Read established Shepherd’s Way Farms in rural Carver County, Minnesota, with a small flock of dairy sheep in 1994. Initially, the farm produced only milk, which was sold through the Wisconsin Dairy Sheep Cooperative. Shepherd’s Way was one of the founding members of the WDSC, helping pave the way for other dairy shepherds.

In 1998, Shepherd's Way Farms introduced its first farmstead cheese, Friesago. Friesago was warmly welcomed by chefs, cheesemongers and consumers, winning its first American Cheese Society award in 2002. 

The farm relocated to its current location just outside Northfield, Minnesota, in 2001, right down the road from Nerstrand Big Woods State Park. Milking and cheesemaking were now housed in adjacent facilities within the long barns. Soon, Shepherd's Way's flock grew to be one of the largest sheep dairy flocks in North America.

Steven Read of Shepherd's Way Farms holds a sheep hook as he stands with his sheep in the pasture

In October 2004, Jodi and Steven were among the 5,000 food producers chosen by local Slow Food conviviums to represent the United States at the first Terra Madre Conference, sponsored by Slow Foods International in Torino, Italy. A devastating arson fire in January 2005 destroyed more than 500 sheep and lambs and all of the farm's animal housing. At the end of 2005, milking was suspended and cheese production continued on an extremely limited basis. With enormous community support and a successful Kickstarter campaign for a new lambing barn, Shepherd's Way persevered. After slowly rebuilding, full production resumed in 2011.

One of our favorite cheeses from Shepherd's Way is their award-winning Big Woods Blue. This full-flavored sheep's milk blue blends the spicy notes of a blue cheese with the creaminess of sheep's milk for a complex flavor. It's been widely praised by food writers nationwide and is an American Cheese Society award winner. Pair it with a rich port or a sweet Muscadet.

Find Shepherd's Way Farms cheeses in the Specialty Cheese Case of your nearest Kowalski's location. Selection and availability vary by market.