Every spring I read Charlotte’s Web to my third-grade class. It is such a rich piece of literature that allows readers to travel back in time to a simpler way of life filled with lemonade stands, country fairs and front porch swings. In this crazy technology filled world, I often find myself longing for a slower pace of life; so, a trip out to a sheep farm seemed the perfect balm for my busy family on a recent Saturday afternoon.
In order to fully unplug, cell phones were left behind as we took route 78 to the scenic country roads leading to Valley Shepherd Creamery 50 Fairmount Road in Long Valley, NJ. We planned to attend the spring lambing tour which costs $7.00 for children and $8.75 for anyone over 12. Visitors who are over 100 are FREE!!! These tours take place every Saturday and Sunday in May and June and last about 1 -1.5 hours. Tours begin at both 1pm and 3:30pm.
Upon arrival, we gathered in the “Sheep Shoppe” where we enjoyed perusing all the interesting items available. Here one can find everything from sheep skin rugs, local honey products, beautiful photographs as well as adorable farm themed toys and gourmet gifts. Samples of cheeses, olive oils and balsamic vinegar were plentiful as we chatted with other visitors waiting for our tour to begin. Our daughter was wearing a CRANFORD sweatshirt and this invited a fun conversation with a couple who shared that they had grown up in our great little town! Our enthusiastic guide soon gathered us together and explained that we would begin our tour in the viewing gallery where we would learn about milking, old fashioned artisanal cheese making and sheep shearing. We first watched a brief 10-minute movie which gave us a brief overview of the farm’s history and daily life. Since the movie is filled with adorable animals, the little people on the tour were equally as interested as the older folks. Next, we got to view the actual cheese room where the many varieties of cheeses begin. Though this was very interesting, more oohs and ahhs were heard as we progressed to the state of the art milking parlor. Here we saw an automated system that is the only one of its kind in the US. The sheep who are milked twice a day happily move into a merry-go-round like machine where they are milked for 2 minutes and then return to the barn. It is truly a sight to see! The final stop in the viewing gallery is the Ewe barn and visitors young and old were captivated by beautiful mamma sheep resting comfortably in the barn.
As we concluded the indoor portion of the tour we were presented with a beautiful selection of all the gourmet cave aged cheeses to sample. One was better than the other and we quickly made a plan to purchase some to bring home after the tour was over.
Now it was time to see the baby lambs! Our guide led us outdoors about 100 feet to the building where the baby lambs live. The excitement was building as he asked all of the children to come to the front of the line. He explained we would now get to see the babies and that each of us would have the opportunity to hold a baby lamb!!! The crowd was suddenly bubbling with excitement. As we entered the barn, our vision was filled with adorable cuddly baby lambs. Their wool was so super soft and fluffy that just petting them caused me to immediately sigh and smile. Each guest got a chance to hold a baby lamb and those who wanted to even held more than one! The best part was watching the children interact with the baby lambs. One young toddler enjoyed quite a “conversation” with a lamb as he would “Baaaa” followed by a lamb “Baaing” and him repeating it again! He had us all entertained by his sheer adorableness! Our guide seemed to have a favorite lamb named “Delilah” who reminded me of “Mary’s little lamb.” Everywhere our guide went, Delilah was sure to go. Again, simply adorable!
We ended our tour with a return trip to the sheep shoppe. We again sampled a variety of cheeses as we decided which we would take home with us. As we prepared to leave the farm we noticed some of our new friends lingering on the porch of the sheep shoppe enjoying wine, bread and cheese. Some of the children were climbing the big red tractors posing for photos and pretending to be shepherds or farmers. Other families were seen talking to the family of alpacas and the Horses. It reminded me of exactly what I had been longing for, a place where people slow down and just enjoy spending time together. Valley Shepherd Creamery truly is a perfect place to spend an old fashioned, technology free family day together! Check them out and tell them “Lori Talbot sent you!”