Barefoot and Pregnant

The food artist of the year is clear: Shepherd's Way Farms makes a glorious art of cheese, and survival

So I nominate Shepherd's Way as my artist of the year. History is full of tales of great artists who continued to make art through periods of great hardship: The Soviet dissident poet Irina Ratushinskaya wrote poetry in jail using a match and a bar of soap; she'd memorize each day's lines and wash her tablet clean. Beethoven composed though deaf. Kafka wrote through tuberculosis—the list goes on. One of the things the rest of us mere humans admire most about artists is their commitment to their art through thick and thin, and I think it's worth noting that one of our greatest local food artists is really in the thick of it.

"We're hoping the lambing has been spaced so that it will be coming not in January, but later," Jodi Ohlsen Read told me one night on the telephone, as she made a cheese quiche for her four boys' dinner. "But it's the kind of thing where if there's good weather, they'll start having them. So we'll fit who we can into the greenhouse. When they're nursing sometimes they'll nurse every few seconds, and it's nice for them to be away from predators: the coyotes and, potentially, owls. The 12 people who adopted a lamb really helped, and we now have a lamb named Noodle!

"People always ask us: Are you back to normal? You feel like if you say anything but yes, you're disappointing them. When we originally started this farm we were very idealistic, but then of course you get caught up in the everyday work. One of the things we were grateful about with the fire was that it became a natural time to look back at what we were doing and say: If we want change, this is the time to do it. But we realized, this is the impact we want to have on the world, this is exactly what we want to do creatively and physically. So many people reached out after the fire, we had thousands of cards and letters, and all these people came down to work, to help clear out the burnt barn or treat the surviving animals. People were just amazing, so kind. The only thing I can think of as a parallel was, it was like a funeral where you get to hear what people are saying about you; it was really sustaining."

Shepherd's Way cheeses are available at specialty cheese shops including Premiere Cheese, E's Cheese, Surdyk's Cheese Shop, Farm in the Market, all of the co-ops including the Wedge, Lakewinds, Linden Hills, the East Side Co-op, and the Mississippi Markets, the St. Paul Whole Foods, and some bigger grocery stores including many Kowalski's Markets and almost all of the Byerly's and Lunds.

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