She's Making Over 15 Varieties of Farmstead Goat Cheese!
Kathy Landers has raised every single one of her 100 goats, maintaining what is called a "closed herd" of registered American Alpines. From them she gets about 130 gallons of milk a day. With this milk she makes hard and soft cheeses, including Chevre, Swiss, Brie, Camembert, Mozzarella, Feta, Gouda, and Cheddar.
|Kathy's daughter, Samara|
In August, at the American Cheese Society Festival of Cheeses in Seattle, I happened to sit down next to Kathy's daughter on the stairway. She mentioned that her mother had entered two cheeses in the competition. So, we went to the Farmstead Cheeses table where I met Kathy and William James, the two master cheesemakers from Landeria Farm in Kansas. I snapped a few pictures of their cheeses:
"Prairie Moon," Kathy Landers Cheesemaker
"Prairie Pearl," William James, Cheesemaker
When I came back to Massachusetts, I wrote to Kathy and asked her how she began making cheese. She answered:
We made cheese for the family at home, but mainly fresh cheese like farmers cheese. I began seriously experimenting with cheese when we lived in Alaska. I had 4 kids, and a herd of goats. This was in 86. The hardest part was finding some place warm enough to age the cheese!
As a child I milked the family cow. When I went to college, of course I went out and bought my own cow. But there was too much milk for just me, so I traded in the cow on a goat. I was hooked!
|The hill above her aging cave.|
I was a little confused, so I asked her if she thought most college students bought their own cows! She responded:
You'd have to have known my Mom. There were 6 kids in our family, and Mom figured we'd be ahead raising our own food. We grew a 2 acre garden and put everything up for the winter. We had chickens, ducks, a horse, sheep, geese, our own milk cow, beef from her calf every year, and plenty of hands to make it all happen. My job was working in the garden and milking. We made our own butter, pickles, sauerkraut, jams, etc. We lived really well.
|Her milking parlor.|
So it seemed reasonable to me. I'd been milking every morning and night for as long as I could remember, and after a couple years of college I rented a 40 acre parcel with a trappers cabin on it. It was cheap, only $50 a month, but it only had a wood stove for heat, the kitchen drain had plugged up at some point and was fixed by hacking a hole in the pipe where it went outside, and one night the whole big front porch fell off the house! But, I could grow my garden, have chickens, and a cow.
So I canned, collected eggs, had fresh chicken once a week, and milked that cow. The day I found that cow standing in my kitchen looking for grain was the last straw. Have you ever tried to back up a cow? She gave way too much more milk than I could use anyway, so I bought a goat from my landlady. She had babies, and they gave milk too, and pretty soon I had a small herd of goats. Goats have short tails (ever been smacked in the face by a muddy cow tail at 6 am?), poop delicate little round goat berries ( cow pies?) and don't break your foot if they step on you. Love at first sight.
|Aging her cheeses.|
We moved to Kansas after several moves post Alaska, each time due to my husband's job. Each move I'd pack up the animals and kids and start over. We've been in Kansas for about 10 years now. I'd been selling cheese and offering free cheesemaking classes from the house for about 6 years here when the popularity of both became too intrusive. We decided to build a place for me to do my thing.
Since I was building something, I decided to make it Grade A. The original concept was for a small 1 car garage type of building, but then it seemed I'd need a bathroom, a place for my lab, a place for a boiler, etc. So, the project grew.
Today I have a 35 by 50 foot heated and air conditioned facility with two 18 foot overhangs. One of the overhangs is enclosed and climate controlled for the boiler, whey tank and cold and hot water bulk tanks. Attached to the make room is a passageway to the subterranean aging cave. I buried the stairs to the cave under 9 feet of dirt, so there is a large hill sitting next to the cheese barn.
The goats are milked in the milking parlor that takes up one end of the barn, with the milk passing through the wall to the bulk tank in the cheese make room.
Landeria Farm cheese is available at Dean & DeLuca and at The Better Cheddar in Kansas City, Pendelton's Country Market in Lawrence and at the Lawrence Farmers Market on Saturdays.
Here's a great little video about Landeria Farm. (There are some good shots of Kathy's "microcreamery" and her cave.)