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SAVOR THE SEASON: Making sheep’s milk yogurt at Blue Pepper Farm in Jay

September 21, 2018
By ANDY FLYNN - Editor (aflynn@lakeplacidnews.com) , Lake Placid News

JAY - Tyler Eaton's family has owned land in The Glen at the top of Styles Brook since the 1920s. Now this Northwood School teacher and his wife, Shannon, own a 46-acre farm on the Hazen Road.

They are part of the agriculture community in Essex County that has grown within the past 20 years. They operate a human-scale sheep dairy at the top of a knoll with a view of Whiteface Mountain in Wilmington. They also sell sheep wool, lamb meat, lamb skins, eggs, pork and sheep's milk yogurt.

Tyler teaches environmental science as well as AP environmental science at Northwood School, and he says his work on the farm helps show students that he's not just offering lip service when he speaks about living sustainably and reducing his carbon footprint.

Article Photos

Milking sheep graze at the Blue Pepper Farm on the Hazen Road in Jay.
(News photo — Andy Flynn)

"It's valuable to me as an environmental science teacher of being a role model for teenaged kids," he said. "They get to see the actions I'm taking. They are tangible actions that they can come back and see about how I'm trying to intentionally live my life to have a positive environmental impact. I think that's useful in my carryover from my farm world to my teaching world."

Eaton grew up in North Carolina and moved to Lake Placid with his father when he was 16 years old, but he vacationed at his family's property growing up, instilling a love and passion for the Adirondacks. He earned a bachelor's degree in ecological sustainability from Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado, and a master's degree in environmental law and policy from Vermont Law School in South Royalton. Then he moved to the Adirondacks in 2010 to teach at Northwood.

Shannon grew up mostly in New Jersey and finished high school in North Carolina, where she went to college. Tyler is the brother of her college roommate. The couple met in Lake Placid after Shannon had graduated. She was working in the corporate world at the time, spending seven years in the shipping container industry working for Maersk, a Danish company.

Shannon moved to Vermont while Tyler was in graduate school for a year and looked for a job, any job. She wasn't necessarily seeking a farm. She even applied for a job at a veterinarian's office but didn't get it. She landed an apprenticeship at the Fat Rooster Farm in South Royalton. That's where she got her first experience raising sheep.

Shannon liked working on a farm so much that when she and Tyler moved to the Adirondacks, she looked for a job on another farm.

"I had been working on a farm with sheep, and I really enjoyed working with sheep," she said. "I was looking for a sheep farm, and there aren't any here, so I went knocking at the door at Asgaard Farm because I was thinking, 'Goats. Close enough.'"

Shannon became the goat herd manager at Asgaard Farm & Dairy in AuSable Forks, spending almost four years there before leaving in September 2013 to spend more time at home - with the kids and the animals on their relatively new family farm. They now have two boys, 4-year-old Shep and 6-year-old Wyatt.

"The more I was interested in my personal environmental impact, the more I was interested in food," Tyler said. "Food is one of our largest impacts on the Earth, collectively and individually. It's also one of our most intimate interactions with the Earth because we eat food every day. It's part of our culture. It's part of the enjoyment of family. And it's pretty tangible to see, experience or taste the different types of food raised in different ways. We can visually see impacts of food."

So they started a farm, first for themselves and it grew into a commercial enterprise.

The Eatons bought their property at 91 Hazen Road in December 2011 and called it Blue Pepper Farm.

"Our first son was born that following April," Shannon said. "Then we got our first batch of baby chicks the following week, and we raised meat birds for a few years. It was the first thing we did here because it was low infrastructure, fast turnaround time. It took us nine weeks to have a finished product we could sell."

The farm grew to include pigs and lamb.

"Then about four years ago, I had this idea that we could blend our interest in sheep with my experience with goat dairy and have a sheep dairy here," Shannon said.

Asgaard Farm and Sugar House Creamery in Upper Jay bought the sheep's milk at first, but only Asgaard buys it now. Whatever milk doesn't get purchased is turned into yogurt, both maple and plain. Shannon rents space at Asgaard to make it. Sugar House Creamery still sells her eggs. They also sell products at farmers markets in Saranac Lake and Keene and at the Green Goddess Natural Market in Lake Placid. Shannon said their biggest challenge is finding larger markets for their products.

The Eatons just wrapped up their third season milking sheep; they only milk in the summertime - in a blue, insulated shipping container.

 
 

 

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