Meet the Farmer, Eat the Cheese. A perfect trip with Italian Food Roots

The sheep that do all the hard work

   Want to know more about cheese? Given that I once went out with a man because we shared a love of cheese, the answer would have to be yes! Organised by Italian Food Roots, an organisation run by the lovely Louise and Adam, the sheep farm trip is part of their mission to bring people directly to the source of the food found on their plates; meet the farmers and producers and hear their stories. It’s a great concept and a good opportunity to get out of the city for a day. So feeling a bit Rick Stein, we set off to meet one of Italy’s Food Heroes, Marco from Ecofattorie Sabine.


   Marco started up his sheep/cheese business thirty years ago and is now part of a consortium of 20+ local producers collectively selling their products in a bustling farm shop. Marco is keen to relay the daily farm routines telling us, “It’s heavy and hard work, but because I enjoy it, it’s easy.” He talks passionately about his endeavours as he guides us around the farm. It’s a family business, both his children Tomasso and Alice are heavily involved. 

   Using up to 1000 litres of sheep milk a day, the farm produces both pecorino and ricotta. Pecorino is a hard cheese made from ewe’s milk (pecora = sheep in Italian).

Harvesting the pecorino.
   The pecorino is then aged in the storeroom, the longer it is aged, the stronger the taste and the more crumbly the texture. The smell was overwhelming and incredible. 


   Once the pecorino from the pasteurised milk is removed and molded, the remaining liquid (milk with the cheese taken out) is used to make an amazingly creamy ricotta. The left over water is heated with more milk and the ricotta is ready to eat within five minutes. 

Ricotta done after a 5 minute heat.

   Then for the tasting. We tried a 2 month old and 6 month old pecorino and fossa a cheese ripened in a pit! All delicious.

   Marco’s sheep farm is only a 5 minute drive from where he produces the cheese. Sardinian sheep are used for their high productivity. 500 of them live in the fields around the farm. They are fed on orzo (barley) from the surrounding fields and their manure used for the crops and the newly established orto, an organic allotment in the nearby fields.

admiring the orto

   I’m always a sucker for a baby-lamb, but these little guys were adorable. Marco explained that they put the sheepdog puppies in the same pen with the lambs so that they learn from an early age how to behave around sheep. The puppies love to play with the lambs, but when they become too rough and playful the mummy sheep give them a bit of a slap and the puppies learn to behave. Except that we gave them too much attention and they spent the rest of the trip escaping the pen and following us around the farm. 

   We had such a great day, good food, good company and supporting local farmers. It really demonstrates the amount of work, pride and effort that goes into the production of these artigianale products – the art of cheese.

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