On Golden Valley Farm an hour north of Fresno, Mario Daccarett’s employees milk 500 sheep every day, in rounds of 12. This creamy milk eventually is turned into cheese and sold at places like Whole Foods.
“They tell me that our Golden Ewe cheese is the best for grilled cheese sandwich ever,” Daccarett says. (I bought some and it was really tasty.)
He says he gets about 800 pounds of milk a year from each ewe. To make that much milk it takes a lot of feed – like oats and hay. And to cut the cost of all that feed, Daccarett says he has a secret ingredient that enriches his cheese while at the same time saves a lot of water. That ingredient? Sprouted barley grown indoors.
“We plant every day and we harvest every day, and it takes six days to complete the cycle,” Daccarett adds.
He feeds his sheep one part oats and hay and one part sprouted barley. Growing barley as feed isn’t anything new, but Daccarett sprouts barley seeds inside shipping containers using hydroponic technology and indoor grow lights. He’s using just 2 percent of the water it would take to grow the crop outside.
“I think that’s a big advantage if you don’t have a lot of land,” says Daccarett. You can produce a tremendous amount of feed in a very, very small area. With a very little amount of water.”
Inside each 10 by 20 foot shipping container are five horizontal rows of shallow black trays. Daccarett’s nephew Jose Quiñonez says the growing process is quite simple. “We just get the tray, just dump the barley, and spread it really good.”
After he fills each tray he pushes the row forward until the container is full and closes the door.
“That’s it … wait seven days and it will be ready …