Monday, August 16, 2010

Artisan Cheesemakers #3 The Farmstead at Mine Brook

Goat Rising and Jersey Maid Cheeses Come From the Same Small Farm!

John Miller is a 10th generation New England farmer.  For years, he raised and milked Jersey cows in the Chesterfield, MA area.  He showed his cows in competitions and he won more often than not.

I asked him to tell us some of his story and he was happy to oblige.  When his children (3) were still young, he was approached by a farmer in Quebec who was raising Jerseys and entering competitions, but not winning.  He made John an offer "he couldn't refuse," so John sold his farm and his 60 Jerseys and headed to Quebec.

For 5 years, John managed the prestigious Piedmont Farm herd and marketed their prize winning cows.  This marketing experience came in handy later when he decided to return to farming.  John knew how hard it would be to make his living from selling milk. He knew about the value of making cheese, and he decided to try his hand at it.
So, he studied for a month with Alan and Lynette Richard at their farm near Montreal and set up his own farm in Quebec.  Soon, however, his aunt, Sarah Prince called him and asked him to come to New England as her partner in a cheesemaking business.

They looked for land and finally found a suitable location in Charlemont, MA, where they established the Farmstead at Mine Brook.John's aunt retired from the business 2 years ago, so now John is the owner of the scenic farm tucked between 2 hills in Western Mass.  ( If you are ever in the area, it's a lovely place to visit:
If you decide to visit the farm, you will find homemade Jersey ice cream (native blueberry, strawberry and vanilla), Jersey cream fudge, homemade jams, goat's milk soap, raw milk, farm fresh eggs, other local products and, of course, a wide selection of award winning goat's milk and Jersey cheeses.
It's the cheeses, of course, that I wanted to know more about.  I had noticed John's Chevres at our local Big Y and recently at a Hannaford's in Maine.  I asked him how he managed to get his cheeses in the big supermarket chains, and he made it sound easy.
For the Big Y, he contacted the deli buyer for the whole company, made an appointment, took samples and to his surprise, they appeared to be interested.  They visited the farm to check things out and then he was accepted.  John said that Big Y is the last family owned supermarket chain in the US.
A friend arranged for him to send samples to Hannaford's and Stop & Shop, and they also recently accepted him as a supplier.  Now that John has the orders, he will be making some improvements to his make room and expanding the work area.  However, the challenge is to maintain the same quality standards he is known for.
As it is now, John does everything by hand.  He has help, but his cheesemaking process is very labor intensive.  From one room, he manages to make 600 pounds of Chevre every week (made from vat pasteurized milk (low temp)) and 100 pounds of aged Jersey cheeses (made from raw milk).  His equipment was purchased used and modified from it's original functions to suit his needs.
His pasteurizer only holds 40 gallons of milk, but he will soon be using a 150 gallon vat.
A relative made the draining bags he uses to hang his curds.
His molds come from New England Cheesemaking Supply Co., of course.
His work table was originally a steam table.
Many of his 6 employees are relatives, but Danielle Larned works with John full time in all areas of production.
Currently, John has 30 Nubian goats and 17 Jersey cows.  He brings his goats into the barn when the sun is hot, so the fans can keep them cool.
The best part of visiting a farm is when you get to taste the cheese.
These are the four I chose to sample;
I can definitely understand why they have won so many awards (listed on their website).  They were absolutely delicious.  The big surprise was the Mountain cheese.  My only regret is that I didn't buy more.  The cheese itself is somewhat soft and the crust is sweet and crumbly.  I ate it on a burger when I got home and it was fabulous.  John described it to me as a "stinky" cheese and I guess it is- but the flavor is huge!  The Neige en Ete is a triple cream, but it's so buttery, it tastes more like a quadruple cream.  The Mont Blanc is extremely popular because it is a mold ripened goat cheese and who doesn't love that?
 Thanks, John.  We'll be back soon!
Contact John at

No comments: