Vermont Cheesemaking

Before we get into the romantic life of a goat farmer and cheesemaker and look at some pretty pictures of cute animals, just remember, if you want to be a farmer you have to wake up at about 4am, just about every day. And you can't just not milk the goats or not make cheese when you don't feel like it or your nose is a little sniffly. The goats need to be milked, whether you like it or not. You have to turn it into cheese, because that is your livelihood. Michael, from Twig Farm in West Cornwall, Vermont (I think this is an invented town that is really just Cornwall, Vermont, because when you look for West Cornwall on Google Maps it gets confused) said that, because it is kidding season (the season when you make a lot of jokes), he hasn't had a day off since February. We visited the farm as part of a cheese course I took in the spring and those in the class who were leaving from Cambridge had to meet at 4:30am just to get there on time. That sounded so horrible that a few of us went up the night before and stayed in a classmate's cabin just so we wouldn't have to wake up that early. But Michael does it every single day. 

Anyways, now that we are done with the serious business, being a goat farmer is amazing and you should definitely quit your job and become one. I took some photos on my iPhone (my good camera's battery was dead) for you! You're welcome.

This was the view from my classmate's cabin. So beautiful. So nice to get out of the city. We went hunting for morels that morning but, sadly, the morel crop has not been very good this year and we didn't find any. 

Off to meet the goats!

Here they are! At first we stayed on one side of the fence but Michael told us to cross over so the goats didn't get too close to the fence and learn the electricity was turned off. Clever girl.

That's Michael, on the right, the guy who owns the farm with his wife, Emily. They were really great about having a big group of annoying students traipsing through their farm asking a bunch of dumb questions. Michael used to work at Formaggio Kitchen, but about seven years ago he started the farm, selling his cheese to the contacts he already had in the industry.

We had to scrub the mud and manure off of our boots before we entered the cheesemaking room (obviously). If you know about cheese, you know what a big deal the laws are about cheesemaking and raw milk and aging and bacteria and cleanliness and Europe and so on and so forth. If you have a month you should read about it.

Some shiny milk containers.

Here you can see a wheel of cheese during the aging process, when it has the really fuzzy "cat hair" mold on it, which will die off and the final, tasty mold will take its place. 

Don't these look fantastic? Americans seem to really like the bright white mold on their cheese. I think it helps them forget they are eating mold and it seems "cleaner."

Awww, some mistakes. Some really gnarly-looking mistakes.

Lunchtime. Unbelievable! We had some cheese from the farm, some more cheese from Formaggio, some pâté, some wine. So good.

Then it was off to Blue Ledge Farm, another goat farm in Salisbury, Vermont. This is Greg, who owns the farm with his wife Hannah. Greg makes the cheese while Hannah takes care of the goats. It's comparatively bigger than Twig, with three large caves, although they aren't at capacity yet. Greg and Hannah were art students who opened the farm about ten years ago, at 23.

The class was amazing. If you live near Boston, you should take it. It's taught by the great Ihsan Gurdal of Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge. You taste and learn about 10-12 cheeses per class, each time focusing on a particular style or country and learning about the cheesemaking process, producers, styles, etc. Ihsan also brings in wine, jams, chocolate, bread, crackers, etc. from Formaggio to try. The culmination of the class was this fantastic trip. I miss it already.