The first time I heard about Manyfold Farm was two weeks ago, sitting cross legged under a coffee table, eating fresh figs and enjoying the most delicious cheese with my friends Christine Anthony and Owen Masterson. They had just finished a photo shoot of the farm (pictures seen here) and shared how incredible this little patch of the world is- overseen by husband and wife team, Rebecca and Ross Williams.
This little patch of the world is actually 101 acres in Chattahoochee Hills, Georgia. It is here where Rebecca and Ross have their little girl, 200 sheep, 400 chickens and three dogs. What's special about them is their care for authenticity and responsible stewardship of the land. As Rebecca shared, "In a nutshell, we are grass farmers. This means that we believe that the health of the soil and the grass growing on it is paramount. It is the indicator for all other aspects of the health of the farm."
The moment I tasted their cheese, I knew something special was happening at this farm. Rebecca and Ross are crafting sheep's milk cheese in Georgia, a state where there are no other sheep milk creameries and there are just a handful in all the South. They also use traditional methods and an ancient process of fermentation.
As Rebecca shares, (featured here) "The process involves the removal of water from the milk solids through the use of bacteria and the enzyme chymosin (rennet) which is furthered by a process of stirring, cutting, draining and pressing."
Their cheeses are 100% hand crafted and embody the flavors of the land they so carefully nourish. When I asked Rebecca what she loved most about her craft, she responded, "I love the difficulty of it. I love that it is both mentally and physically challenging. The job asks a lot of every part of me. As a result, I feel strongly that I am getting to know who I am and what I'm made of the more I work."
Condor's Ruin is their velvety, ash ripened cheese which they describe as "dense, complex and rich." Rebecca chose to go with the traditional ash coating which originated in the early European days of cheese making. As she shared, "it protected the cheeses' exterior from flies and other impurities in the days before refrigeration." It imparts no flavor but does give the rind a particularly gooey consistency.
Brebis is the French word for 'ewe.' It's a delicious, creamy cheese that is described as the 'chevre of the sheep world.' It's perfectly tasty by itself or atop many a tidbit- such as crackers, fresh fruit or salad. Rebecca also recommends this cheese for pasta filling or as the base for a cheesecake. Yummy...
Garretts Ferry was hands down my favorite of their cheeses. Rebecca describes it as "a soft, buttery, ultra-creamy, semi-lactic, crottin-style cheese." It's one of those dangerous cheeses that you can't stop eating and then when you do force yourself to stop, you can't stop thinking about it...
Both the Garretts Ferry and the Condor's Ruin are handled quite a bit during the crafting process. As Rebecca says, "From dry salting by hand, moulding by hand, applying the ash by hand, turning each little one by hand every day, these two cheeses get a lot of babying."
Rebecca and Ross savor their life on the farm. Rebecca, "I love the few moments I get in the mornings, right before milking when the ewes are coming up from the pasture. It's quiet, everything is set up, there's nothing to do but wait, look around and sip coffee. I watch my neighbor's cows graze, I see spiders suspended in the air between tree limbs, the barn kittens gamboling...it's just lovely."
As Rebecca works on the big picture of what the farm can be and crafting the most delicious cheeses, Ross handles whatever is needed on a day to day basis. Rebecca refers to him as the farm's Swiss Army knife as he is capable of tackling any task - no matter the challenge, and has a gift for handling the animals.
Pictured above are Rebecca (standing) and Ross beneath her. To the left are their trusty farm hands, Pete and Kristin Davenport. In the fall, I plan to visit the farm myself and see what they're up to. Can't wait to share my adventures...
All photography provided by the uber talented filmmaking team of Christine Anthony and Owen Masterson. They recently released a wonderful documentary on Southern farmers called, GROW! Click here to watch the trailer...
Photos: Christine Anthony and Owen Masterson Content: Sweet Peach