On Richfield Road in Corning, a scorchingly hot August day just after their oldest two girls began school, Missy and Joe Adiego showed off their creamery, housed in a single mobile building on their farm. A 1935 farmhouse stood newly renovated about fifty yards away. Sheep grazed under walnut trees along the road. Oranges grew on a tree outside the farmhouse. Just the weekend before, the young couple had bottled and shipped their first batch of sheep milk from the farm. For Haverton Hill Creamery, moving from Petaluma to Corning was not without challenges, but now, finally, the Adiegos produce sheep milk, butter, and ice cream there.
Joe Adiego has milked sheep since 2010. He had been working in his father’s dairy equipment business, and he started bringing home first a couple of goats and then some sheep from his on-dairy sales’ encounters. He had shown sheep during his years in 4-H and, although he’d never run a dairy, he was attracted to them as a commercial venture, since there weren’t many sheep dairies at the time. When their dairy in Petaluma began producing milk from sheep on land leased thereabouts, they shipped the milk to creameries such as Bellwether Farms, the Sonoma County farm and creamery that makes cheese and yogurt from sheep and cow milk.
Then, three years ago, the Adiegos decided to bottle the milk themselves, and Haverton Hill Creamery was born. Says Missy, “I made up the name from our daughters’ names [Avery and Hadley at the time; two-year old daughter Leary has since been added]. I didn’t even know Haverton Hill is a town in England.”
According to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat at the time, Haverton Hill was the first creamery in the country to bottle and distribute sheep milk. They started producing butter and ice cream a year later. From then on, Haverton Hill’s sheep milk, butter, and ice cream have been available in a growing number of markets from Healdsburg to San Jose and throughout the East Bay, including at Whole Foods. “It was the most amazing feeling,” revealed Missy, “to stand in a market and stare at our product on the shelves.”
A family operation—really, a couple’s operation— Haverton Hill has been streamlined in moving to Corning. Missy and Joe moved about 200 sheep, “on probably the hottest day of the summer,” commented Joe. Four sheep did not survive the change in climate, but the others have acclimated. Joe Adiego no longer milks them. The herd is his way of preserving the bloodlines he worked hard to develop by breeding the most high quality milkers among his herd of East Friesian sheep, should the couple decide to return to milk production. On the Corning farm, they have decided to focus on developing their creamery, and they now buy sheep milk from other farms. “We’re small, only two people,” said Missy. It made sense to fit their efforts to their numbers.
They bought the place last December and set about readying it for their move. Why reinvent themselves in Corning? “We looked everywhere from Chowchilla to Corning,” explained Joe. “This place just felt right.”
This place was a boarded up walnut farm, with a farmhouse in disrepair and four rows of the orchard that needed to be removed to make way for the two mobile buildings housing the creamery and the business’s office space. The orchard presented a second challenge too. “I’ve seen grey squirrels, you know, the ones with the bushy tails,” said Missy. “These are ground squirrels, and they are everywhere. We found nuts in all the cabinets and under the bathtub when we tore them out.” Ellie, a Jack Russell terrier, now serves squirrel duty on the Corning farm.
Ground squirrels had had free range on the boarded up farm, and once the Adiegos removed the boards, thieves had free range too. With the family still living in Petaluma and making regular and predictable trips to Corning, in their absence the thieves made off with everything from construction tools to Christmas stockings and ornaments.
Farmhouse renovation, walnut tree removal, loss of livestock, theft—and then there was the delay getting the facility certified. Although they moved the portable creamery intact to their Corning property, and although the same facility had been certified by the California Department of Food and Agriculture to produce the same milk, butter, and ice cream in Sonoma County, certification took months.
“You want to know my most optimistic prediction for certification?” asked Joe. “I figured one week.” Instead, weeks dragged on, and the couple endured two months without making any product. That meant no income.
Yet they still say the move to Corning was the right move. “The farming community has been so supportive,” attests Missy. “Neighbors come by with coffee and peaches.” She smiles. “Sometimes they’d find me sitting on the steps of the creamery, just sweating and crying.”
Finally certified, the creamery is a small space. Inside sit stainless steel milk storage vat, bottling table, and equipment, the ice cream maker, the stainless steel sink and dishwasher for washing and sterilizing, and, most intriguing, the antique cream separator that enables them to produce sheep butter. The couple has had inquiries about how they craft their award-winning, small batch sheep butter from the east coast and from as far away as New Zealand.
Still relying on the retail markets where they sold prior to their move, the Adiegos have begun searching out local markets to offer their products. The ice cream, though, is available from their vintage ice cream truck, bought and renovated a year ago; it can be booked for weddings, birthdays, etc. As soon as the farm is tidied up from all the construction, the Adiegos are excited to host school groups at the creamery, and they plan a party in late fall to introduce the creamery to the local community. Watch Haverton Hill Creamery’s Facebook page, where Missy will announce the party. Like a house-warming, it will mean the move is complete.
Haverton Hill Creamery
THE MILK, THE BUTTER, AND THE ICE CREAM
Haverton Hill Creamery bottles about 360 quarts of milk a week into returnable glass bottles. Their website (havertonhill.com) echoes analysis of some nutritional benefits of sheep milk: it is naturally homogenized, with fat globules smaller and easier to digest than those in cow milk, with more mono- and polyunsaturated fat than cow and goat milk. Sheep milk is also higher in protein and contains substantial amounts of vitamins and minerals.
People who drink sheep milk report a sweet, creamy taste. The high fat content, almost twice as much as cow and goat milk, lends itself to crafting butter, though the process is challenging as well, due to its smaller fat globules. Haverton Hill Creamery butter is 85% milkfat, its mouthfeel not as thick as the equivalent butter from cow milk. With a small amount of sea salt added in the churning, it nevertheless taste freshly sweet. The butter has won two American Cheese Society awards in the craft butter category and an award from the World Dairy Expo—not bad for two years’ production.
The Adiegos produce six flavors of ice cream in the Haverton Hill Creamery line: coffee, hazelnut crunch, dark chocolate cocao nib, vanilla bean, mint chip, and strawberry balsamic. They feel slightly icy in the mouth, a pleasing coldness, perhaps the result of the milk’s naturally homogenized smaller fat globules. We found the coffee flavor mild, and the mint chip startlingly minty, both in a good way. Most surprising was the strawberry balsamic, with strawberry prominent and a balsamic echo. Plenty of teeny cocao nibs are suspended in the dark chocolate ice cream, lending it texture to contrast with the creamy ice cream, as do the chocolate chips in the mint chip and the nuts in the hazelnut crunch. For vanilla ice cream fanciers, the Creamery’s blend has the deep vanilla flavor of the bean rather than its extract. The ice cream is available in pint and soon in 8-ounce cartons.
Earl Bloor and Candace Byrne were introduced to Edible Communities when Candace googled “sustainability Cape Cod” and the search revealed Edible Cape Cod. After Candace wrote for both Edible Cape Cod and Edible Sacramento and the couple saw first hand how the publications encouraged sustainability in two very different locales, they embarked on their own publication, Edible Shasta-Butte. This new venture, grounded in Edible Communities’ goal to “connect consumers with family farmers, growers, chefs, and food artisans of all kinds,” complements the couple’s long careers in education. It also takes them back to their roots, when Earl grew up next door to his parents’ eatery, The Spot, in Kincardine, Ontario, and Candace’s mom engaged all the kids in baking and wrapping goodies as gifts for every holiday.