Ron Muise was a chef in Europe, but when he decided to come home it wasn’t a restaurant full of people he wanted.
He preferred a farm full of sheep.
The Cape Breton native and his wife moved home about three years ago and purchased a farm and old farmhouse in Grand Mira North, outside Sydney, with an eye toward restoring the property and making cheese, long an interest for Muise.
Because of Nova Scotia’s dairy cow quota and Muise’s dislike for goats, he started thinking about sheep.
"I like sheep," said Muise. "My grandmother had a sheep farm and I like sheep cheese."
So for the past three years, Muise has worked to restore his farm and build a business. Two months ago, Wandering Shepherd Cheese received a commercial licence, and it already has regular customers at the local farmers market.
"The response so far has been fantastic," said Muise.
Ewe milk cheese might be new to Nova Scotia but it’s not to the rest of the world. Muise said the process of making it is similar to other cheeses.
As an artisan company, the product will have slight variations from batch to batch and depending on the time of year.
As is the case with milk from goats and cows, ewe milk best lends itself to certain kinds of cheeses. Muise said he focuses on blue cheese, non-pressed mountain cheeses and aged hard cheeses.
"I will also be making Camembert, and that’s very, very nice."
Sheep produce milk six months out of the year so Muise does his milking in the spring. There are 45 ewes on Muise’s 24-hectare spread, and he hopes to eventually have about 15 more animals. He also has arrangements with two other farmers to get milk from them.
And because his ewes are "prolific" breeders, Muise’s farm is also busy producing meat.
"In the spring, there’s about 90 lambs coming up," he said.
"There’s under 10 commercial farmers on the island. We can’t, as a province, actually meet the demand for locally grown lamb."
With the Christmas season behind them and a strong response in the Sydney area, Muise said he hopes to expand the farm’s products to independent stores and markets across the province.