Verde Oveja farm near Cotacachi produces world-class sheep cheese products and lamb meat and invests in the local indigenous community
When Heather and Phillip took early retirement in 2017, they decided to expand on their Colorado hobby in the Andes of Ecuador. They brought their passion as sheep and livestock producers and created a philanthropic project to help the local community. Today, the 70-acre Verde Oveja farm, in the hills overlooking Cotacachi, is the only commercial sheep operation in Ecuador utilizing the products from sheep production, including cheese, yogurt, milk, meat, wool, and hide products.
Bambi, the farm’s beloved pet Jersey cow, provides milk for some traditional cow cheeses like sharp cheddar and cottage cheese.
Finally, Verde Oveja invests 100% of proceeds from the sale of its products to benefit the entire community – for example, one project is to provide potable water for all the families in San Antonio del Punge. Currently the community only has a small, contaminated water source with no filtration capabilities.
“We are proud to be teaching the local people about sheep and how they can be a highly productive livestock animal, creating the highest quality cheese products available, making a name for our local community, and investing in community projects. We are grateful that our community embraces the project and is proud of the work they are doing. We want every client that purchases products from Verde Oveja to know that they are directly contributing to the well-being of the indigenous people,” Heather says.
In addition, Verde Oveja is providing life skills workshops for residents. The Steyns have hosted training in such areas as financial literacy, including how to set up a household budget and manage a bank account. “Unfortunately, the indigenous are not taught basic life skills in school regarding finances, and without these skills, even with jobs, it is hard for them to create a better life,” Heather explains. The Steyns have also helped the employees’ children, providing access to computers and supplies for school.