Husband-Wife Team Build Dairy, Cheese Plant from Ground Up
Stacie and Steve Ballard aren’t from farm families. He worked as a mechanic for a trucking company and she was a waitress.
They moved from California to Idaho for Steve’s new job in 1993. Both were intrigued at the thought of running a dairy farm but weren’t ready for that kind of a leap.
That changed when they started raising calves on their property.
“Stacie said ‘if we’re going to do this we might as well go get cows,’” Steve said.
A dairy business was born. They bought a barn at an auction, added cows and began their new lives as dairy farmers in 1995. Milking cows became a passion but they sought ways to add more value to their farm.
That’s when the thought of making cheese hit. Steve attended a cheese-making seminar to see if their idea was feasible.
“I called Stacie when it was done and said ‘yeah, I think we can do this.’ She said ‘OK,’” Steve said with a laugh.
They began constructing a facility in 2002 and enlisted the help of a former Idaho cheese maker. By 2004, they had their first batch of cheese curds.
Today, the Ballard Family Dairy and Cheese company offers an array of cheese made from milk produced by the farm’s 70 Jersey cows. Among its unique offerings is Idaho Golden Greek Grillin' Cheese. This “Halloumi” style cheese has been made for hundreds of years on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus using milk from goats and sheep. Steve became intrigued about the cheese after reading an article and spent a year tinkering with the process using cows’ milk.
What makes this cheese unique is its high melting point. Steve said it makes great salad croutons by cutting it into cubes, coating it with your favorite seasoning, adding some lime juice and browning it in a pan. The cheese won an award from the American Cheese Society in 2007.
The Ballards welcome visitors to their farm. People come for the cheese but they often leave with an understanding of a dairy farm and what it takes to produce food.
“We’ve had people with a negative attitude but once you talk about what you do and why, they get a clearer picture,” Steve said. “They like having a connection with our farm. It’s been very rewarding.”