Building a Natural, Quiet, Tractor-Free Life
Having grown up on a cattle ranch, Sluder knew when she and her husband, Paul, bought a farm in Lincoln County that she’d stay close to her roots. But she wasn’t sure where to start. Because her husband’s family raised sheep, Sluder decided to try a new ranching challenge, while Paul worked a full-time job.
“At first I didn’t know that much about sheep,” said Sluder, who put in many hours of research. “But I really liked working with them, and cheese-making has been an interesting process.”
Sluder turned to the University of Idaho to help push her business forward while making it more sustainable and natural. She attended UI’s Lost River Grazing Academy to learn better and more sustainable grazing practices and tapped the UI Extension to help create a business plan that incorporated cheese-making on the farm.
She increased her herd to 80 ewes, brought in a cheese-making expert and added goats to increase product variety.
Sluder focuses on the livestock and land. She has two lambing seasons, May and November, and she makes it a point to keep her lambs with the ewes during the day, separating them only at night so she can milk the ewes in the morning.
“People love to see a ewe and a lamb out in the field together,” she said. “It’s more natural and healthier.”
Using her grazing academy experience, Sluder tries to maintain fresh grazing areas almost year-round on her 80-acre property. She also uses draft horses to work the 25 to 30 acres she reserves for hay, pumpkins and potatoes.
“I like the quietness of it all, the slower pace. You can’t hurry things along,” Sluder said of the horses, adding that as of this year, she no longer has a tractor for backup. “I love horses and farming with horses.”
She sells her cheese largely in the Treasure Valley, at Boise markets, in Salt Lake City and local farmer’s markets. Her products include the manchego-style Borrego, the sheep’s-milk feta Del Verde, a sheep’s-milk ricotta, a chevre (made from goat’s milk) and a mozzarella she’s been perfecting.