November 8, 2018

Know Your Farmer: Bellwether Farms

Know Your Farmer: Bellwether Farms

Grassy Pastures Lead Sheep to Award Winning Cheese

Cindy Callahan, founder of Bellwether Farms in Sonoma, CA, decided to bring some sheep to pasture as a natural way to control the growing grass. She was a nurse, and in her 50’s, so a career in cheese was not top of mind. However, a casual suggestion by a friend to milk the sheep opened Cindy’s eyes to the potential of a sheep dairy farm. She embraced the challenge, bringing the rest of her family along for the eventful ride. There are so many reasons we are grateful to be a part of Bellwether Farms’ ride of a lifetime.


Know Your Farmer: Bellwether Farms
(Photo Credit Bellwether Farms)

Cindy continues to be intricately involved, down to the details of assisting in the delivery of nearly every lamb on the farm. Cindy’s son Liam makes every pound of cheese produced by Bellwether Farms. And his wife, Diana, jumped right in with both feet, working in the Cheese Room until their first child was born and now handles the mail-order side of the business.

Let’s not forget the sheep, as they contribute to farm’s success as well!  The Callahan sheep are a Northern European breed called East Friesian, considered to be among the best milk-producing sheep in the world. Their sheep are free to roam the pasture year-round, and they’re also fed grain and alfalfa to keep them in top condition for milk production. Each ewe has one to three lambs each year and these lambs stay with the mother for 45 days before milking begins. The sheep average less than ½ gallon a day, and Bellwether's sheep are never injected with hormones to increase production.


Know Your Farmer: Bellwether Farms
(Photo Credit Bellwether Farms)

The Callahan family also has neighboring Jersey cows that offer cow milk for cheese production. Jersey cows are less common than the typical black and white Holstein cow, and their milk is far superior for cheese making. These cows yields less than five gallons a day compared to Holstein cows that provide almost twice that. The cows are never treated with hormones and are fed a mix of grasses supplemented with alfalfa and grains.

Know Your Farmer: Bellwether Farms
(Photo Credit Bellwether Farms)

Clearly, it’s quality, not quantity that takes the front seat for the Callahan family. Using traditional methods, no two cheese makers can make the same cheese due to subtle differences in milk, climate, equipment and technique. The Callahan family emphasis on the traditional and time-tested methods to ensure the highest quality and a unique taste that could not be replicated anywhere.

The farm is only a few miles from the ocean and close to the well-known areas like Tomales Bay and Bodega Bay. This region is known for mild temperatures and coastal fog. Heat stress adversely affects milk production and quality, so mild temperatures are ideal for dairy production. Dairies in the Tomales Bay area are renowned for producing the richest and sweetest milk around.

Bellwether Farms has also established the Bellwether Farms Foundation, pledging one percent of their sales to strengthen the food system by supporting organizations that provide hunger relief or food-related education to our communities.

Know Your Farmer: Bellwether Farms


We carry Bellwether Farms yogurt, cheese, ricotta and crème fraîche. Once you try it, this crème fraîche will be a staple in your fridge, and you will not be able to wait to add it to all sorts of meals. Conveniently add these excellent dairy products to your farm box delivery when you Customize Your Box!

Stay connected to Bellwether Farms by liking their Facebook page @BellwetherFarms. You will find awesome recipes for many of the items we carry.

How To Add a Bellwether Farms Products To Your Delivery: CSA members - head on over to our online Farm Stand Market to customize your upcoming delivery. The Market is open from noon on Thursday until 2 pm, 2 days before your scheduled delivery day. After you confirm your produce items, click the orange button "Confirm and Continue To Other Farm Products" to add the products to your delivery. 

Not part of our farm family? Find out if we deliver to your neighborhood.


(Header Image Photo Credit: Bellwether Farms)