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Another Small Dairy Goes out of Business

Written By Culinary Pen on Sunday, September 16, 2012 | 6:45:00 AM

A washed-rind cheese, just beginning to form a rind
Yesterday morning I found out our local raw milk dairy is going out of business.  Run by an Amish family, they produce wonderful raw milk, unpasteurized butter that is as golden as saffron, and a range of raw milk cheeses.  Alvin, the owner, explained that they were not shutting the farm down, but they needed to sell the cows right away.  They pasture their cows here in Bellefonte all spring, summer, and into the fall, but the droughts of this year have sent feed costs skyrocketing.  "It just doesn't pencil out, keeping the cows with the cost of winter feed," Alvin explained.  He's hoping to get someone else who can take the cows right away, while the can still eat the fall grasses.

Caerphilly, a Welsh-cheese, with a bandage wrapping
Alvin's an incredibly nice guy who makes great quality milk.  I've made a number of cheeses from his milk, three of them pictured here.  I'm sad to lose the ability to buy milk from a farm about 8 miles down the road, but doubly so since Alvin was a raw-milk dairy, which isn't the easiest thing to get certification.  Since most milk is filtered, homogenized, and pasteurized, regular dairies don't need to be as clean as you would think, since the milk is going to get filtered and cooked before it goes into retail packaging.  But raw milk dairies need to be certified and regularly inspected by the state, showing the milk and facility is clean and up to code for the milk to be consumed "as-is."

A soft, unpressed cheese coated in chestnut flour and with a natural mold rind.
I also worry this is just the start of a larger trend for the remainder of this year and into 2013.  With the droughts, feed and milk prices have been rising.  Farmer's I buy cheese from as far North as Vermont have expressed similar concerns.  Even for those farms that make their own hay for winter feed worry they won't have enough hay to keep their livestock fed through the winter.  Which will just mean higher costs for milk and meat.  And more small farms who find that they just can't compete at these higher prices.

Carla and I have talked about buying another whole hog and 1/4 share of beef to fill up the deep freeze this fall, before prices really begin to rise.  But that still doesn't help with getting clean, high quality milk for drinking and cheesemaking.
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