What to do this weekend? A common question in our house when household chores aren’t a priority. I say cheese… A cheese trail, or dairy farm that is.
Cheese trails are slowly being introduced in our area. Cheese trails work on the same concept as wine trails do. Dairy producers who manufacture artisan cheeses (sometimes referred to as farmstead cheese) use the milk from their own herds of cows, sheep, and goats to produce the artisan cheeses right at their own farms.
These farmers work in unison with other farms in the area to advertise and promote their products. Most offer free, or low-cost tours of their working farms. You get a first hand look at their barns, animals, milking parlors, and cheese making facilities. The best part, you get to sample and purchase the cheeses they make.
After researching a bit, I picked our first farm to visit, Side Hill Acres Dairy Goat Farm. This farm is located in Candor, NY. As we arrived at Side Hill Acres, we were greeted by a friendly woman who came out a house on the property and walked us into their cheese shop.
As it turns out, this woman, along with her husband, (Russell and Rita Kellogg) own the farm. She is the farm’s cheese maker. She explained to me, as we stood in the barn overlooking their 100 plus goats, and while the rest of her family trimmed goats hooves, that she and her husband started raising goats nearly twenty-four years ago. Their family run business has grown from producing milk, to making award-winning cheeses over the years.
As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I really respect farmers. They work hard, and put in long hours to make a living. As Rita explained to me, they milk their herd twice a day, once at 4AM and again at 4PM – seven days a week. You can tell by talking to Rita that this farm, and the goats, are her passion.
Rita told me she learned the art of cheese making from both a Cornell University professor, and a student who she connected with through Cornell Cooperative Extension. She said she worked with them for about six months, and once she learned the ropes, she took the knowledge she’d gained back to their farm. She say’s she has been making cheese ever since.
The cheeses that Side Hill Acres produce are their own creations, giving them unique tastes and quality. We tried several flavors, and purchased a couple different kinds to take home. The prices were very reasonable.
This was a great experience. We got to pet the goats (who are very social creatures, and love people), taste the artisan cheeses, learn a bit more about dairy-farming, and get a brief lesson in cheese making. I would highly recommend this as a family outing, and a great learning experience for any age. If you are ever in the Finger Lakes region follow the Finger Lakes Cheese Trail.