Goats & Green Hills: My Visits to Honey Creek Creamery

Thursday, June 18, 2015

After skipping a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) membership for a couple of years, my family decided to join one again this year. We decided on the Iowana Farm CSA since they offered half a share to supplement what we were already growing on our own. Another draw was the fact that we could add goat cheese from Honey Creek Creamery to your weekly box. We’d previously sampled and purchased their goat cheese at the Asksarben Farmers Market, so we were excited to add this. I started looking more into Honey Creek Creamery online and saw they had open tours through Living Loess. So on a Saturday in mid-May, we packed up the kids and drove to Iowa.

It has been a wet spring in the Midwest, so the drive to the town of Honey Creek, was filled with green from every direction. Upon our arrival to the creamery, we were greeted by Sharon Oamek, the owner and operator. She, along with additional family members, shared the history of the farm and information about the goats. There was a tour of the milk parlor, cheese sampling, and the opportunity to milk a goat by hand. My kids had a great time and my son still asks to see photos from the trip. Here’s a few photos from our tour.







After taking the group tour with Sharon and hearing her speak so passionately about her work, I contacted her a few days later and asked if I could come back to take more photos to share on my blog. My second trip to Honey Creek Creamery was in early June. We’d discussed our agenda via email and I was excited to get to hike with Sharon and the goats in the hills and see cheese being made.

Sharon grew up in Pennsylvania and always had a love of nature. She began working with goats in the 1990's while living in Colorado. In the late 1990’s, Sharon and her husband George decided to buy his great-grandfather's farm. Initially after moving to Iowa, Sharon worked at the City of Omaha Planning Department office. She then served as the Senior Community Affairs Officer for the Federal Reserve Omaha Office for Community Affairs. In 2006, she decided to travel less and be with family and more active on the farm. In 2009, Sharon became a certified artisan cheese maker and in 2010, the creamery was certified for cheese production. Currently, Honey Creek Creamery products are sold at several farmers markets, stores, venues and online. You can view a current list here. In May, Iowa Public Television visited Honey Creek Creamery and put together a beautiful segment that shows what Sharon's daily life is like on the farm.
 
As soon as I arrived, it was time for the goats to head to the hills under the leadership of Tucker, the Great Pyrenees. The goats roam the hills with Tucker every day until about 4 pm when they return to eat alfalfa.

Some of the adolescents were playful during the hike, often running and chasing each other and even bumping into me up in the hills.




There are three kinds of goats at the creamery: Nubians, Saanens and Alpines.



Goats are actually selective eaters, preferring woody stems, leaves and branches.





We finished up our hike, left the herd to roam the hills under Tucker’s watchful eye, and headed back down to make cheese. Sharon’s bulk tank that produces the cheese was purchased from Italy and the pasteurizer from The Netherlands. Sharon milks the goats twice per day and makes the chevre in small batches every two to three days, adding fresh, organic herbs and spices to flavor the cheese.

The bunk house was built in 1911 and was renovated to serve as the milk parlor and cheese processing facility.

Sharon painted the windows frames in the processing facility yellow. Since she spends so much time here making the cheese, she said she need a touch of color to contrast the otherwise white interior.







While we were waiting for the cheese to pasteurize, she pulled out a photo album. The album was all about how the Honey Creek Creamery came to be. In it were newspaper clippings from its opening day as well as photos of the renovation of the bunk house. 


Goat roster inside the milk parlor. 





When I asked Sharon what she loves most about what she does she responded that is was hard pin it down to just one thing, "I like creating something from nature that people enjoy. I like the daily interaction and spirit of the goats. I like working with creative people who have passions of their own." Sharon exudes warmth and has such a passion for what she does. Whether scooping up young goats to snuggle in her arms or discussing new ways to make her farm practices even greener, it is clear she has a deep love for her animals and the farmland she calls home.

2 comments

  1. i love the photo of the goats eating from the tree branches. they have their eyes closed and are savoring the moment with such udder bliss. (see what i did there?)

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  2. Ha ha, yes! Glad you enjoyed this. Thanks for reading!

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