Under the perennial blue sky of the central Colorado plains, neatly tucked in the hills near Larkspur, stands Fruition Farms Sheep Dairy and Creamery, the first artisanal sheep dairy in the state. In 2009 Chef Alex Seidel of Denver’s Fruition Restaurant and his partners Paul Attardi, Jimmy (the shepherd) Warren and Josh Halder of Verde Farms had a vision to create a sustainable relationship between farm and restaurant. The dream resulted in the purchase of the 10-acre farm, a steep learning curve on how to raise and breed sheep, and the art of crafting cheese.
With a lot of heart and hard work, they worked together in true community spirit with a rotating staff from the restaurant to build an impressive sheep barn, milking stalls and a state of the art cheese making facility. There have been several seasons now of tirelessly raising and lambing the sheep. The grass fed flock has grown from forty milking ewes and one ram to seventy-five ewes and 28 rams. With the milk from these ewes, Alex and Jimmy have meticulously crafted and cave cured three artisanal sheep milk cheeses: Ricotta, Cacio de Pecora and Shepherd’s Halo.
The Italian style Ricotta was their first prize-winning cheese and is the result of their experience as chefs in making it for the restaurant. Being such a fresh cheese, it is seasonally available from spring to late fall.
The Cacio de Pecora, is a wheel of semi firm farmstead cheese that ages in a humidity and temperature controlled cave for 6-9 months. The evolution of this cheese took well over a year of fine tuning the nuances to achieve its nutty, floral, grassy flavor and aroma.
The Shepherd’s Halo is a bloomy-rind cheese born from the “Shepherd’s Share,” of milk to create the first soft ripened cheese of it’s kind.
Cheese making involves dedication day and night. During one of the final steps, 45 minutes of attentively stirring while carefully cooking the curds for the Pecora, Jimmy talked about how farming “becomes a way of life.” One idea inspires another. The compost from the sheep fertilizes the garden that supplies the restaurant with seasonal vegetables. The organic scrap from the restaurant and the whey from the cheese-making feed the Berkshire hogs to be raised for butchering, and so on.
When it comes to creating a synergy between what we grow and what we eat, Fruition Farms embodies the “farm to table” movement.