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4/24/2013 2:00:00 PM
Pursuing The Perfect Cheese In Whitefield
Patti Hamilton gets a nuzzle from one of this year's kids. (D. Lobkowicz photo)
Patti Hamilton gets a nuzzle from one of this year's kids. (D. Lobkowicz photo)
By Dominik Lobkowicz

Budding cheesemaker Patti Hamilton, is working this year to perfect two cheeses made from sheep and goat's milk from her family's farm in Whitefield.

Hamilton and her husband, Chris, first started farming chickens and rabbits in Vermont, adding in turkeys after they moved to Phippsburg in 1995 and started Lion's Tail Farm.

The family continued to expand their variety of animals by getting a pig for their son's fourth birthday in 1996, but Hamilton decided she wanted to take farming to the next level.

After being asked by a woman to take care of her goat for a year, Hamilton began breeding goats and adding to the herd. Running out of room on their Phippsburg farm, the couple eventually bought the now-Hamilton Farm in Whitefield in 2000.

Hamilton said running the farm and homeschooling the couple's two children was a way of life, and everything she did was based on what was best for the family. Hamilton was in charge of the morning chores, and the children would handle the evening chores.

The first time she realized the kids were fully invested in what happened on the farm was when they went to look at getting some Cashmere sheep.

Hamilton said her daughter, Becca, said if the family got the sheep, she would not participate in caring for them because she was afraid of the animals' long horns. In the family's first group decision related to the farm, they decided not to get the sheep.

"They were equal partners in it," Hamilton said.

When the kids left for college, Hamilton was left wondering if she could take the lifestyle she was living and make it into a business. She spent 2011 working on her cheeses, and last year had to make the decision to either take the plunge or give it up.

"I wasn't ready to give up the animals," Hamilton said. "I hadn't finished it yet."

So determined, Hamilton received a license for Barred Owl Creamery last year and started searching for her niche among the many creameries in Maine.

Hamilton said the name for her creamery came to her one summer when she was outside gardening all day and barred owls roosting in the edge of the woods would call out to her. The call sounds like "who cooks for you," she said.

"[I thought], oh my gosh, that's it!" Hamilton said. "I want to cook for you!"

Hamilton began looking at her farm in terms of terroir - the qualities of the geography, geology and climate passed on to products such as vegetables, wines, and cheeses - as a way to make a marketable product.

"I don't want to compete with this person or that person because I think there's room for everybody," she said.

As a result of that search, Hamilton decided to use funds from a Maine Farms for the Future grant she received last November to bring in a cheese consultant over Easter weekend to assess the animals, facility and situation of the farm.

The consultant identified two cheeses that would stand out if produced at the Hamilton Farm: bleu cheese and epoisse, a cheese traditionally washed in brandy during its aging process that pairs well with beer, Hamilton said. Many farms in Maine make bleu cheese, but few do so using sheep and goats' milk, she said.

With the Sheepscot Valley Brewing Company about a hundred yards away, it occurred to Hamilton that washing the epoisse in beer instead of brandy would be an "amazing" thing to try. She hopes to hold some sort of a beer-cheese pairing event with the brewing company later this year.

With the two styles of cheese she'll be working on identified, Hamilton is going to spend this year working on different combinations of sheep and goats' milk with varied aging times to see which recipes work best.

Hamilton expects to start making cheese in May, with the first batches to be available in August and through the fall. She will be looking for input and feedback about the cheeses, and for more information about when they will be available call 549-5497, visit or like the Hamilton Farm - Barred Owl Creamery & Catering on Facebook.

The Hamilton Farm and Barred Owl Creamery are located at 2 South Fowles Lane in Whitefield.

Related Links:
• Hamilton Farm

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