“I’ve always been fascinated by milk,” says Tim Clark, a Baptist minister and co-owner of Locust Grove Farm in Knoxville, Tennessee. “It’s a living thing.” That’s why when he decided to convert his 25 acres of sheep pasture into a dairy three years ago, he knew he would make only raw-milk cheeses. “Pasteurization changes milk, including its flavor,” he says, referring to the process of heating milk to kill certain bacteria. As a result, Locust Grove Farm is the only licensed raw-milk dairy in the state.
Tim has raised sheep for more than 20 years and has always been intrigued by the process of turning milk into cheese. But when he started farming, no one was making cheese in the Southeast, so he turned to articles and books for cheesemaking information. Then he got a hands-on crash course working on a dairy farm in Scotland with master cheesemaker Allan Brown. When he returned home, he had everything he needed to start out on his own.
With the help of business partner Sheri Palko and his wife, Brenda, Tim makes four distinctive sheep’s milk cheeses: Cumberland, a semi-hard cheese spiced with green peppercorns, red chiles, onion, garlic, and ginger; Galloway, a mild, nutty semi-hard farmhouse cheddar; Appalachian Spring, a tangy Gouda-style cheese with a faintly sweet finish; and the subtly sharp, creamy La Mancha, Locust Grove’s interpretation of Spain’s manchego.
All the cheeses are made by hand with the farm’s own sheep’s milk and nothing else but cultures, vegetable rennet, and salt. Tim and Sheri are firm believers in old-time, sustainable farming practices: Their free-range sheep are on grass year-round and are never given any processed feeds, hormones, or antibiotics. For more information, visit LocustGroveFarm.net; to order, call 865-567-5213.