From Grassfed Dairy Cows to Gourmet Artisan Cheeses in the Hudson Valley

Gourmet Artisan Cheese from Creamery

Almost everyone is familiar with the terms “farm-to-table,” “locally sourced,” and “organic, non-GMO.” Can you imagine a land where there would only be huge commercial farms and totally processed foods? The days of the old-school farmer are waning as the average age of farmers today is 60 years. There is hope, however, in a new generation of young farmers across America who are culturally aware, savvy about sustainable and biodynamic farming and are producing organic, more nutritious and healthier foods. But they are an endangered species because land access is expensive and difficult to come by.

In the Hudson Valley and upstate New York there is a growing number of young women who are becoming dairy farmers. One such young woman is 27-year-old Sarah Chase, owner with her brother Rory of Chaseholm Farm, a third generation family farm founded in the 1930s on fertile “Holm” or flatland that the two siblings were fortunate to have inherited. In its past history, their grandfather raised horses and their father was a dairy farmer. Sarah grew up helping out on the dairy farm, went off to Oberlin College and returned home not knowing what she was going to do. However, after meeting several other young farmers who were growing organic vegetables, she found a common thread with them and with her passionate love of animals – especially the cows, it seemed a natural move for her to return to the farm to become a dairy farmer.

When she returned to the farm she purchased the cows from a farmer who was leasing some of her family’s land. She became involved with the National Young Farmers Coalition (founded in the Hudson Valley five years ago and now 24 chapters strong nationwide), 25-30-year-old farmers whom she connected with ideologically and learned from that the farming she grew up with wasn’t the only way. In the Hudson Valley there was a growing hub of organic vegetable farming and sustainable meat farming all operated by young farmers.

Inspired by the Coalition Sarah, in her third year of operating the farm, is transitioning the farm from conventional to organic; feeding her cows more nutritious hay crop grown on the farm, containing clover and alfalfa, as well as bales of hay and corn sileage that is milled into grain on the farm. The feed is non-GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms); the grazing time has increased and she doesn’t use pesticides. On the 350-acre farm that Sarah and Rory inherited, Sarah has 120 grazing acres for her herd that consists of 60 animals – 33 milking cows, a mixture of Jersey and Holstein and two young bulls. They graze eight to nine months of the year on the farm’s grassland pastures.

Sarah manages the dairy herd and provides the raw milk to her older brother Rory who started Chaseholm Farm Creamery making farmstead cheese (cheese made from the milk of their own farm herd). Sarah’s cows produce 1,000 pounds of milk daily that is put into a bulk tank, chilled to 37 degrees and then picked up by Rory who turns the cows’ milk into fabulous cheeses.

Among the small-batch artisanal cheeses made at Chaseholm Farm Creamery are: Camembert, Probiotic Queso Blanco, Stella Vallis Tomme made in the French Alpine tradition, Alpine-style Alpäg Gruyere aged 10 months and Probiotic Herbed Farmer’s Cheese. The Moonlight Chaource is a chevre-style cheese with a layer of ash just beneath the bloom or rind; it was noted by editors at Food & Wine magazine as “one of the best cheeses” they’ve ever had. The Creamery also makes a “stinky” cheese Red Beard that is washed with hard cider and finished with apple brandy.

Rory returned to the farm eight years ago after studying cheesemaking at the University of California, Davis and founded Chaseholm Farm Creamery, one of the few farmstead operations in the state of New York. He also created a wholesale division called the Amazing Real Live Company. In expanding the operation, Rory retrofitted his grandfather’s 1930s barn into a cheesemaking plant and aging cave. It is Rory’s and Sarah’s belief that the quality of their milk is deeply related to the quality of their soil and the life it can support. Creating farmstead cheeses gives them the opportunity to see their products metamorphose from pasture grass to artisan cheeses like Camembert as they attentively guide the entire process from pasture to product.

Rory says about 50 percent of his business is to the wholesale trade. As a small-batch producing company, he tries to keep an edge on a very competitive business by constantly experimenting and “exploring the fringes and corners of cheesemaking.” The Creamery produces 700 pounds of cheese a week; last year’s production amounted to a total of 32,000 pounds. The Creamery’s Farm Store is open every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 124 Chase Road, Pine Plains, New York; also the cheeses can be ordered online at http://www.chaseholmfarmcreamery.com/store.

Margaret was public relations director for two luxury New York City hotels, where she did extensive research into America's culinary heritage. She is a founding member of The James Beard Foundation; formerly, owner of a Jersey Shore inn and restaurant, The Pelican Bistro, recognized as one of the 10 Best New Restaurants in NJ by New Jersey Monthly, and a PR consultant to restaurateurs. For the past several years she has been a contributing writer about food, drink and restaurant news for many publications. She is a passionate cook and wine lover who moved to the Hudson Valley and is in awe of the immense wealth of agricultural, artisanal and culinary talent in the area. Connect with her at www.TastefulLiving.net, Hudson Valley Wine & Restaurant Examiner and Shore Region Food & Restaurant Examiner. She can be reached at mmorgan531@gmail.com.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Follow by Email
Pinterest
Instragram