|Many small farmers have realized that creating value-added products like cheese helps improve their bottom line and provides a vehicle to build their name. For cheese aficionados, there are a growing number of points on the Taste Trail for visitors to tour the farm, meet the animals, watch the cheese-making process and buy some cheese to take home.Read the full story – Say Cheese & Charcuterie – written by Jake Levin in the July issue of Berkshire Magazine.
BERKSHIRE FARM & TABLE CHEESE TRAIL (in orange, at left)
A. Cricket Creek Farm – Williamstown, MA
address: 1255 Oblong Road | Williamstown, MA 01267
About: Cricket Creek Farm is one of the oldest, grass-based dairy farms in the region raising dairy cows for milk plus grass-fed beef, whey-fed pork and laying hens. The farm store sells raw milk and artisanal cheese from their farmstead creamery and baked goods made from a scratch bakery on site. They also sell goods through a diversified year-round CSA, at local farmers’ markets and various regional cheese shops, food co-ops and restaurants. Cricket Creek Farm’s mission is to exemplify a sustainable model for small-farm viability by producing nourishing food that honors animals, respects the land and feeds the community.
Cheese: Maggie’s Round, Tobasi, Berkshire Bloom, Town Meeting, Town Hearth, Hillside and Cricket Creek Fresh (descriptions below). Farmstead butter, buttermilk and whey also for sale.
Maggie’s Round – First Place winner of the 2011 American Cheese Society Competition. Made with raw cow’s milk and aged over 60 days, it is a semi-firm, whole milk cheese inspired by the Toma cheeses of the Italian Alps. The flavor is sharp and bright with citrus notes and a rustic rind that adds earthy tones.
Tobasi – A semi-soft, square-shaped, raw cow’s milk cheese aged 3-4 months has an edible, washed rind with a rich orange patina. It is buttery and smooth in texture, with earthy, grassy notes.
Berkshire Bloom – A semi-soft, fresh aged cheese made with pasteurized milk in a style similar to Camembert has a delicious white rind and a very soft, earthy, pungent layer surrounding a mild firm center.
Cricket Creek Fresh – Soft and spreadable with a sweet lactic flavor, this cheese is similar to a chevre, but made from pasteurized cow’s milk. It is currently made in five flavors: Garlic & Herb, Herbes de Provence, Lavender & Honey, Sundried Tomato & Kalamata Olive and Perfectly Plain.
Visit: The Cricket Creek Farm store is officially open every day of the year from 7 AM to 7 PM. Visitors can stop by at any time, walk around the farm, visit the animals and shop in the farm store. People are always welcome to observe what is going on (milking, cheese making.) The farm does not offer regularly scheduled tours, but there is almost always someone around who can answer questions. For bigger groups, they are happy to arrange tours with advance notice. Cheese-making classes are listed on their website.
B. Sangha Farm/Goat Rising – Plainfield, MA
address: 134 West Hill Road | Plainfield, MA 01070
About: Sangha Farm is a small family farm located in the hilltowns of western Massachusetts. They grow culinary herbs and produce the way nature intended, without the use of harmful chemicals, pesticides and herbicides. Sangha Farm applies biodynamic preparations to their soil and they are working toward organic certification and becoming oxen powered. They raise registered Nubian Goats and purebred Finn Sheep. The goats, sheep and oxen are all part of the farm family; all have names and are very friendly. They spend their days grazing on sustainably managed pastures and receive lots of love.
Cheese: Goat Rising makes many flavors of Chevre, including a Chocolate Chevre and a Lavender-infused Chevre, Feta, which is their most popular cheese, Goat Cheddar, St. Gerome, Trappist and Chevrotin. They are also very well known for their original Goat Cheese Truffles (chevre dipped in Callebaut chocolate.)
Visit: Please contact in advance for a visit. Tours are available with time permitting.
C. Nudel Restaurant – Lenox, MA
address: 37 Church St, Lenox, MA 01240
About: Nudel Restaurant is a creative American bistro taking its inspiration from the bounty provided by local farms and food producers of the Berkshires and Hudson Valley. Chef Bjorn Somlo is committed to using local, organic, ethical and natural ingredients whenever and as much as possible. Somlo opened Nudel in August of 2009 and has been nominated one time for Rising Star Chef and three times for Best Chef: Northeast by the James Beard Foundation, in addition to two nominations for The People’s Best New Chef award for FOOD & WINE® magazine.
Cheese: House-made Ricotta made with High Lawn Farm milk (Lee, MA) for Penne with Roasted Tomatoes, Parmesan and Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
Hours of Business: Tuesday through Saturday (5:30 PM – 9:30 PM)
D. The Red Lion Inn – Stockbridge, MA
address: 30 Main Street, Stockbridge, MA 01262
About: A charter member of Historic Hotels of America and winner of the Wine Spectator award for excellence, The Red Lion Inn (c. 1773) has been providing food and lodging to guests for more than two centuries. It offers 108 antique-filled rooms and suites, formal and casual dining, a gift shop, pub with nightly entertainment and a full range of amenities including free WiFi, a year-round heated outdoor pool and in-room massage therapy. The Inn is recommended by National Geographic Traveler, The New York Times and The Boston Globe and has won awards and been noted for its commitment to sustainability.
Cheese: House-made Ricotta made with High Lawn Farm milk (Lee, MA) for Gnudi with Smoked Tomato Sauce.
Hours of Business: Seven Days (12 PM – 4 PM) | Sunday through Thursday (5:30 PM – 9 PM) | Friday and Saturday (5:30 PM – 9:30 PM)
E. Berkshire Blue Cheese – Great Barrington, MA
address: 20 Crissey Road | Great Barrington, MA 01230
About: Berkshire Blue was developed over a period of 12 years in Somerset, England, by Alan Duffield, then proprietor of the Willett Dairy. Since 2000, it has been made in Berkshire County, Massachusetts, under a licensing agreement with Dr. Duffield.
Berkshire Blue is a raw Jersey cow’s milk cheese crafted by hand, working with small batches of milk picked up right after morning milking at a nearby farm whose herd is dedicated solely to supplying their dairy. Other than the truck, pump and heating and refrigeration equipment, no machinery is involved in the process. Vats are hand-stirred, curds are hand-cut and hand-ladled into small, three-pound molds which are hand-turned, hand-needled and hand-turned again (more than 24 times in all). The cheese is then hand-wrapped and labeled. All this, along with periodic core sampling during the maturing period, ensures that each small wheel is closely inspected many times during the nine weeks it takes to become Berkshire Blue. The process here is identical to that in England, except for an additional 15 days of aging to comply with Federal regulations regarding products made with unpasteurized milk.
Cheese: Berkshire Blue Cheese is completely made by hand of all-natural products. No hormones, preservatives, colorings or flavor enhancers are added. The cheese is not sold at the facility but is available in many stores and restaurants in the region. Where to buy.
Visit: Please contact in advance for a visit. Tours are available by appointment only and can accommodate a maximum or 3-4 people at a time.
F. Harvest Barn Bakery at Gould Farm – Monterey, MA
address: 54 Gould Road, Monterey, MA 01245
About: Founded in 1913, Gould Farm’s mission is to maintain a farm-oriented community that offers opportunities for recovery and growth to those challenged with mental illness. Gould Farm’s Harvest Barn Team operates from a beautiful three-story barn on the lower half of the campus. The team uses the barn’s commercial kitchen to process and prepare a variety of food products that help sustain the Farm community. Experienced staff help guests develop baking and food processing skills (often with farm-grown ingredients), learn to market the products, manage inventory and package and ship products that are sold in the marketplace and through the Harvest Barn’s mail order operation.
The retail bakery and café serves delicious breads, pastries, coffee and tea. In addition, they offer products such as Gould Farm maple syrup, honey, cheddar cheese and eggs, as well as jams, chocolates, granola and much more. During the summer months they also sell vegetables from their gardens.
Cheese: A mild cheddar cheese is produced from Gould Farm’s own dairy. Cheese-making is one of many work program opportunities for residents at the farm.
Visit: Cheese is available at the Harvest Barn Bakery at Gould Farm. The hours are Saturday and Sunday from 9 AM to 3 PM and Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 10 AM to 3 PM. Due to the nature of Gould Farm’s program, the farm is not open to visitors.
G. Rawson Brook Farm – Monterey, MA
address: 185 New Marlboro Road | Monterey, MA 01245
About: Across the verdant landscape of Monterey, and a little off the beaten track, lies Rawson Brook Farm. This small family-run farm, carved out of the woods and built from scratch, is the birthplace of Monterey Chevre. With its low-fenced paddocks, unassuming barn and outbuildings, Rawson Brook Farm received their license to produce cheese for sale in 1984 and has been making Monterey Chevre ever since. Each year, the farm begins producing cheese in the middle of March through to the first week of January.
Cheese: Monterey Chevre, a soft, fresh goat cheese (made from the milk of Rawson Brook goats only) is a true farmstead cheese available in original, thyme with olive oil and chives with garlic. The cheese can be purchased at the farm and also at local stores and restaurants.
Visit: Tours are not available however the farm is open to visitors who are interested in seeing where their food is made. The farm and self-serve store are open to visitors during daylight hours. Guests can look around, read the informational signs, visit at milking time to watch and buy cheese. The farm is tucked in, right off New Marlborough Road, which is the right-hand turn just a bit after the Monterey library. The road is paved, and then it is not, and it goes over a little bridge and veers to the left and then you are there. Park in the first little parking area. Please do not drive up to the cheese shed.
H. John Andrews: A Farmhouse Restaurant – South Egremont, MA
address: 224 Hillsdale Rd./Rt. 23, South Egremont, MA 01258
About: John Andrews: A Farmhouse Restaurant specializes in regional American cuisine with emphasis on local fresh and seasonal ingredients and Italian regional influences. The food is crafted by chef-owner Dan Smith and his team and highlights farms and food artisans in the Berkshires and Hudson Valley. Guests enjoy the cozy fireplace in winter months and in summer, al fresco dining is available on the terrace. John Andrews offers a full cocktail bar and a lighter-fare bar menu. A ‘Featured Farm Prix Fixe’ three-course menu is offered year-round on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Thursday each week. .
Cheese: House-made Ricotta made with High Lawn Farm milk (Lee, MA) for Ricotta Gnocchi prepared with Butternut Squash, Kale and Sage-Brown Butter Sauce. (The sauce changes with seasonal availability.) This dish has been created this as one of their vegetarian and gluten-free menu options.
Hours of Business: Sunday – Thursday (5 PM – 9 PM) | Friday and Saturday (5 PM – 10 PM) | Closed Wednesday
I. The Creamery at Twin Maple Farm – Ghent, NY
address: 416 Schnackenberg Road, Ghent, NY 12075
About: PLEASE NOTE: We are sorry to announce Twin Maple Farms will not be open to the public in 2014 as it is being listed for sale. For more info, click here.
Cheese: The Creamery currently focuses on producing Hudson Red, a washed-rind, raw Jersey cow’s milk cheese which is sold nationally at top restaurants and specialty food stores. It recently won a Gold medal at the World Jersey Cattle Association competition and scored 97.25 points at the very competitive World Cheese Championships in Europe. They also produce Hudson Gold, a raw milk, aged cheese curd perfect for snacking and cooking, and Hudson Truffle, a washed curd with a vein of Umbrian black truffle slices rubbed in black truffle oil.
Visit: The self-help cheese store is open seven days a week, sunrise to sunset. For private tours and cheesemaking classes, please email Matt@TwinMapleFarm.com
J. Hawthorne Valley Farm – Ghent, NY
p: 518.672.7500 | 518.672.7500×231
address: 327 Route 21C, Ghent, NY 12075
About: Formed in 1972, Hawthorne Valley Farm is part of the larger non-profit organization Hawthorne Valley Association, which is committed to social and cultural renewal through the integration of education, agriculture and the arts. Situated on a 400-acre, working biodynamic farm with a variety of diverse enterprises and cultural initiatives, Hawthorne Valley Association is a unique environment – a place based on genuine human relationships, good food, wonder and love of nature, and continued commitment to self-development and lifelong learning in a social context. Visitors are welcome!
Cheese: Hawthorne Valley sells biodynamic and organic raw milk, available on the farm. Other fresh organic dairy products include buttermilk, whey and yogurt (Plain, Maple-Vanilla, Strawberry and Lemon). Fresh organic cow’s milk cheeses include:
Quark – A versatile European-style cheese used in both sweet and savory dishes.
Bianca – A soft, fresh spreadable cheese with a delicate mild flavor that can be described as young, tangy and lemony. It is available in plain, smoked, herb and olive plus seasonal flavors only available on the farm, such as Honey Sage or Truffle Oil.
Mayhill – A Camembert-style cheese available in small and large wheels.
Hawthorne Valley also produces a variety of hard cheeses made with biodynamic and organic raw milk including:
Alpine – Hawthorne Valley’s signature cheese, Alpine is made while the cows are out on pasture. The cheese ages naturally and moves from a mellow, mild and meltable texture to a hard, nutty, vibrant cheese as it ages.
Farmstead Cheddar – A versatile, everyday cheese that has been aged 4-6 months.
Clothbound Cheddar – Our English-inspired clothbound cheese has a complex, sophisticated flavor, thanks to its interaction with the air around it during the aging process.
Raclette – An excellent melting cheese made with our winter milk. This cheese is available seasonally in limited quantities.
Visit: The farm is open to visitors year round. The Hawthorne Valley Farm Store is open Monday through Sunday 7:30 AM to 7 PM from Memorial Day through Labor Day; Monday through Saturday 7:30 AM to 7 PM and Sundays from 9 AM to 5 PM, September through May. Individuals are always welcome to engage in the farm in different ways by taking a self-guided tour around campus, visiting the pigs, strolling through the corner garden, visiting the creek or hiking Phudd Hill.
To interact more deeply with the farm, visitors may schedule a Farm Tour and/or a Farm Food Tasting to try all the foods made on the farm. The Farm Learning Center also offers various programs that last a few hours or multiple days. Cheesemaking classes are offered one Saturday a month with details posted on their website.
K. Old Chatham Sheepherding Company – Old Chatham, NY
address: 155 Shaker Museum Road, Old Chatham, NY 12136
About: The story of the Old Chatham Sheepherding Company really begins with a blue ribbon ten-year-old Tom Clark won for his Hampshire sheep at the Dutchess County Fair in upstate New York. At the time, he told a local newspaper reporter when he grew up he wanted to raise a flock. His career path took him elsewhere, but then Tom and his wife Nancy bought 600 acres of lush grassy fields in Old Chatham, New York. They now own the largest sheep dairy farm in the United States and produce award-winning artisan sheep’s milk cheese and yogurt.
Sheep’s milk cheese has been made in other parts of the world for centuries, perhaps as long as 12,000 years ago, but it is relatively new in the U.S. Old Chatham Sheepherding Company was at the forefront producing some of the first sheep’s milk cheese and yogurt in the U.S. Since the beginning in 1993, Tom and Nancy have been involved in every aspect of the operation from helping design the barns and creamery to cheesemaking.
Cheese: The farm is currently making Hudson Valley Camembert (a blend of East Friesian sheep’s milk and Jersey Cow milk), Kinderhook Creek (pure East Friesian sheep’s milk), Ricotta, Ewe’s Blue, Shaker Blue and Sheep’s Milk Yogurt.
Visit: Visiting hours are dawn to dusk, seven days a week, year round. Maps and tutorials are available at the self-serve Farm Store and an observation wall allows visitors to see inside the creamery. The farm does not offer official tours or cheese-making classes, however visitors may roam the farm on a self-guided tour with signage leading visitors around.
Berle Farm – Hoosick, NY
About: Berle Farm has a 20-year history of diversified farming. The farm has evolved to a low outside-input farm and their organic cattle graze 400 hundred acres of pasture. Berle Farm grows open-pollinated, saved-seed corn, oats, rye and hay, vegetables and fruit. They produce cheeses, yogurt, beef, produce and dried popcorn for sale at farmers’ markets, regional shops and restaurants.
Cheese: Certified organic Berleberg, Crowdie (a soft, chevre-like cow’s milk cheese) and solar-powered full-fat cow’s milk yogurt in glass jars.
Visit: Due to workflow and staffing, the farm is not open to visitors. Cheeses may be purchased at a variety of shops and restaurants in NY, VT and MA including the Berkshire Co-op Market, Bizalion’s and Rubiner’s Cheesemongers in Great Barrington, MA, Wild Oats Market in Williamstown, MA, and Honest Weight Food Co-op in Albany, NY.