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Doug and Alyce Wolbert produce wholesome,
 flavorful cheeses using traditional methods

Twenty years ago, Doug and Alyce Wolbert came from Michigan to Baldwin County to found Sweet Home Farm, the state’s first licensed farmstead cheese maker. To qualify as a farmstead cheese producer, the cows or goats must be raised under stringent conditions, and only milk produced on the farm can be used. 

In 1984, when the Wolberts arrived, Elberta was a somewhat isolated, slow-paced farming community. While the town’s character pretty much remains the same, the area has become a bustling retirement and vacation Mecca. 

The Wolberts, although settled in a rapidly developing 

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Doug Wolbert’s Guernsey cows are his and his wife Alyce’s livelihood, as well as their pets.

area, remain committed to making cheese in much the same way it has been made for centuries in Holland, the home of Doug’s ancestors. Although they initially constructed their own cheese making equipment, they soon found that much more efficient equipment could be importehttps://www.alafarmnews.com/files/0304archive/d from the netherlands. 

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Alyce tends a vat of Guernsey milk which will soon be made into cheese.

While living in Michigan, Alyce and Doug, who was an auctioneer working at a saw mill and later in an automobile mirror factory, dreamed of the time that they could get into cheese manufacturing supported by their own dairy. 

Doug relates, “Those in the Michigan dairy industry did not want more dairies. So they did the best they could to discourage me. Alyce and I had some friends from our school years who were living in Baldwin County. We were familiar with the area from previously visiting our friends. The weather is nicer than Michigan’s, the state tax base was attractive, and the Alabama Health Department was agreeable because they wanted something to happen down here.”  

By the end of 1984, the Wolberts had moved to Baldwin County having purchased a 60 acre farm about two miles east of Elberta. Doug states, “A deciding factor in choosing this location was that it is not far from Elberta Farmers Co-op.” 

Sweet Home Farm is a small “mom and pop” operation committed to handcrafting a wide variety of cheese. All of their cheese is made from fresh cows’ milk, culture, salt and enzymes and aged for a minimum of 60 days. 

Doug explains, “Like vintage wines, farmstead cheese reflects the particular soil, climate and herbage of each season and the skill of the cheese maker. We celebrate these seasonal variations in cheese and recognize them as the hallmark of unique, regionally produced food.” 

The Wolberts generally have 16 cheese varieties available at any given time. And they can have as many as 22 in the case at once. Their most popular cheese is Elberta which is the house variety. Also popular are Blue, Bama Jack, and Gouda. Patrons can also choose among Feta, Romano, Baldwin Swiss, Pepato Asiago, Montabella and Cheese Fudge which has a chocolatty and nutty flavor. 

In addition to the cheeses, lines of crackers, chips, condiments, cheese dishes, cutters and spreaders, as well as other attractive gift items are available in the store. The Wolberts can fix you up with some cheese, crackers, plastic knife, and a napkin. Then they can send you on your way with your lunch in hand in a brown paper bag, as they did this reporter. 

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Doug holds a round of cheese which has just been taken out of the aging room.

Alyce, who actually makes the cheese, states, “The rinds of our Perdido cheese contain a layer of ash made from herbs, which gives it a distinctive herbal taste.” 

All cheeses sold at Sweet Home Farm are made on the premises from milk produced by a 40 head Guernsey diary herd. The semi-tropical Gulf Coast climate provides generous rainfall and mild winters. This allows the Guernsey cows access to free pasture grasses nearly year round. The grasses are supplemented with regionally grown grain. 

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Doug, far right, offers Greg and Kim Filardi of Raleigh, North Carolina, a sample as they make their selection from over 16 varieties of cheese in the case.

The Sweet Home Farm store is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesday through Saturday. Since Doug and Alyce run the entire operation with no employees, they are closed Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday in order to do all the work associated with the business. 

     Needless to say, their business is very labor intensive. Caring for the cows, cheese production, and serving the customers is all mixed together. Doug says, “The shop is the clean part of the work. I tend the cows and do the maintenance while Alyce makes the cheese. We both work in the shop.” 

Doug states, “Using a variety of agricultural practices permits us to control quality every step of the way as our cows transform grass into milk and we convert that milk into cheese. We use no herbicides, pesticides, or growth hormones on the farm. And there are no preservatives or colorings in our cheese.” 

All Sweet Home Farm cheese is sold on the farm to walk-in customers. Doug states, “We have our summer crowd and our winter crowd. In the spring and fall, we have week-end traffic. There are times when we have to close because we run out of cheese even though all milk produced on the farm is made into cheese.” 

When Doug and Alyce moved to Elberta, she actually was locating closer to her home for she was born and raised in New Orleans. Her college roommate, who was from Michigan, invited Alyce to visit. While visiting in Michigan, she met Doug at his birthday party. And she adds, “I just stayed and married him.” 

Doug and Alyce are thankful for the Elberta community and their customers for supporting their commitment to produce wholesome, flavorful food using traditional methods while living in harmony with the land. 

Doug Wolbert and vintage milk truck
Doug says that this vintage milk truck is a nostalgic reminder of by-gone days for many who visit Sweet Home Farm.



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Date Last Updated January, 2006