Hard cheese for customers

By Geoff Lee

November 24, 2015 9:52 AM

Rhonda Zuk Headon, owner of the Cheesiry, stands outside her business, and holds a wheel of experimental Colby-style sheep's milk cheese with a Tuscan taste. There will be no more, though, as she has made the decsion to close her business.

Rhonda Zuk Headon knows what it feels like to be a mouse caught in a cheese trap. 
She would love to continue making her special Tuscan-style cheese from sheep’s milk commercially, but not at all costs.
Her work and her family life balance is off kilter, so she’s closing The Cheesiry after five years to give more time to her four-year-old twins, Soffeah and Kass.
“The realization of the amount of work milking sheep and making cheese takes, having a young family and the fact this is also a farm with previous enterprises makes balance difficult,”  she recently wrote in an e-mail to her customers
She plans to spend quality time with her kids and family and kick back at home without having to rush to get back to The Cheesiry.
To add an exclamaition point to her decision, Headon is selling the cheese-making equipment and her herd of milking sheep.
She plans to keep about five sheep to continue making cheese for her family’s use.
“I can’t imagine just stopping completely at this point,,” she said in an interview from The Cheesiry shop, near Kitscoty.
“Right now I still want to do that for ourselves.”
Headon said you can put all of your energy into the business or into children, but one or the other will suffer.
“It’s hard with two young children to put a lot of effort into business,” said said.
“We wanted to make a quality product and that’s what it was,” said Headon, noting margins for any food production — especially for cheese — are thin.
The Cheesiry will continue to sell cheese until supplies run out, likely by next summer.
The Cheesiry still has supplies of all its hard cheese left for sale, but almost all of the soft ones, with the exception of some cream cheeses, are gone.
“We have all of our hard pecorino in four different flavours and three cow’s milk cheeses that we did in November,” said Headon.
The farm store, located on Range Road 24 south of Highway 16 ,will be open throughout the winter and retailers and restaurants that carry the product will continue to do so while supplies last.
Cheese will also be available for purchase at the Old Strathcona Farmers’ Market in Edmonton.
Word of the sale of equipment and sheep has spread far and wide with a local potential buyer lined up for all of the cheese making equipment.
“They want to milk goats,” said Headon, who noted that purchase offer is not a sure thing yet.
“They just came and inquired. We are just in talks right now. There is someone who is closer by and there are people far away who want to buy the bits and pieces.”
She wants to keep the sheep until January to breed them. The East Friesian-cross dairy sheep are the favourite part of the cheese making business for Headon who will miss them all.
“They are very kind and very nice to work with,” she said.
“That’s why it will be nice to keep five of them around. They are wonderful because they give great milk, great meat and people compliment us on the yarn that we’ve gotten back from them as well.”
She refers to the sheep as a real multi purpose animal.
The Cheesiry sheep are coming off a great milk producing summer season that has filled two aging rooms full of cheese for sale before the shop closes for good.
Headon is clearly looking forward to spending time with her kids before they head off for kindergarten next fall, but the decision to close the shop is a bitter sweet one.
“It was so much fun to bring a piece of Tuscany, something I learned on the other side of the world and share it here – it was so much fun for me,” she said.
“I am so tired out I am relieved for it now.”

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