Monday, June 7, 2010

CRAFT visit to Sprout Creek Farm. Yum Cheese!

All four Glynwood interns, the gardener and one volunteer crammed themselves into Nicole's (fellow intern) station wagon for a road trip to Sprout Creek Farm. I had been eagerly awaiting this visit since I first got the CRAFT schedule. First, they have a cheese booth at my local farmers market, second, I have limited experience with dairy operations, and third, I knew I would sampling lots of cheese.

Ladies waiting to be milked

All the farmers in training were ushered into the milking/barn area and the cows were led in one by one to their milking spots and secured. Sprout Creeks dairy herd consists of a variety of breeds, Jerseys, Normand, Holstein, and Shorthorns. Mike, who was leading us on the tour, mentioned that they don't really like Holsteins because they are lazy and don't like to walk, but she given to them by a Greek man who owned a restaurant not too far away who was raising her on the restaurants leftover salad bar. She calfed and they named the girl Princess Feta in tribute to him.

Once all the ladies are positioned and secured they are fed out their ration of food. Currently the pastures are not green enough to fully supply the cows with all their nutritional needs but eventually they will able to reduce how much additional feed they give them in the summer. The fields are sowed with clover, timothy, sorghum, and teff among other grasses. Once they are busy eating the workers go around to each cow and they start pre-milk process where they squeeze and squirt out some milk from each tit to stimulate the milk to start flowing. At the same time, the milk is collected in a black container and the workers can check for any discoloration. If the the milk is discolored that cows milk will not enter in with the rest of the batch. Then each tit is dipped in an iodine solution for 30 seconds before it is wiped off to disinfect the tit before the milking attachment go on. After that the machine does all the hard work and the white liquid flows through a tube into where it goes off into another room into a collection tank.

The cows are on a strict milking schedule, 6:30 am and 3:30pm and produce around 50lbs of milk a day. To give you an idea of how much cheese that would make, it takes two cows daily production to make 10lbs of cheese.

Sprout Creek also milks a small herd of goats, a mixture of Nubians, Toggenberg and Oberhasli. Unlike cows, goats have a limited milking season that basically lasts from Spring to Fall and they cannot lactate year round. The dairy goat kids are absolutely adorable. When the workers asked if any of us wanted to go in the kid pen the Glynwood crew instantly jumped at the opportunity to play and cuddle with them.

After our farm tour we met with head cheese maker Colin, a CIA grad, who was very enthusiastic about cheese making. They make 15 different varieties and get all their enzymes and cultures from a place in Wisconsin (who turn get it from France.) Apparently Wisconsin is the gateway to all things cheese. Colin likes experimenting with size of molds, depth of molds, and duration of aging to tease out new flavors and textures. Fortunately for us, we got to try several varieties. There were the soft cheeses, one from goats milk one from cows, the semi-hard cheeses, and the hard cheeses made from raw milk like Ouray, Toussant, Eden. All were delicious.

The interesting thing about Sprout Creek farm is that they are big into education. They run day and overnight camps all summer long for kids and teens. Not only are they learning how to care for animals but they are also learning about where there food comes from. They have a small vegetable garden, laying hens, ducks and guinea fowl. Mike mentioned that they plan to process the layer chickens with the teenagers at some point so they can really make the connection to their food.

I loved the whole concept. Part of me wished I could be a kid just to go to camp there, the other part of me wished I could just get a couple of dairy goats and start my own operation. But, of course I would get my goats in the habit of being milking around 9:30 am...none of this waking up at 5 stuff.

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