@inglejw @klbone #staff #missionday #lovemyjob (at Longview Center for Agriculture (http://www.greenerpartners.org/))
Calkins Creamery is visible nearly a mile before you reach the farm: its impressive red barns practically jump out from among the green rolling hills of the northern Pennsylvania landscape where it is located. As Harmony and I pulled into the driveway, we were greeted by a sign that proclaimed, “Dairy of Distinction”. This is recognition given by the Northeast Dairy Farm Beautification Program, and it recognizes the dedication of dairy owners who keep “attractive, well-kept farms, and promote a good dairy industry image”. Calkins most certainly lives up to this standard. But Harmony and I were visiting for our own reasons: How are the animals treated? What kind of care goes into the cheesemaking? How do we know that this is quality cheese? These were the questions that we wanted answers to.
To the left of the barns there is a smaller building, which we recognized as the cheese-making facility. It’s welcoming front room, filled with photos, Calkins T-shirts, and a case full of their delicious cheeses, looked more like the entrance to a private home, rather than a business. Then we met Emily Bryant, a warm and welcoming woman who is the brains behind the delicious Calkins Cheeses. She informed us that she needed to give her team some quick directions, but would be right back to give us the full tour. Emily’s team consists of a culinary school grad turned cheesemaker, and a few high school students who do work for the dairy as part of a career program in their school. Sure enough, Emily returned with plastic covers for our shoes (cheese making is a clean business!) and allowed us to enter the cheese making room. A large pasteurizer, a couple sinks, a vat, a series of lines to bring the milk straight in from the barn, a packaging room, and a large cooler set to around 50 degrees are the main components to this operation. Emily explained that they found that it made the most sense to send the milk straight over to this building, to begin the cheesemaking process while the milk is still hot from the cow’s body, rather than cooling the milk just to heat it again later. We watched as the whey from one batch was drained from the curds (to be sent to their pigs to eat) and then then the workers began to scoop the curds and pack them into round molds on a nearby table. Emily explained how these molds are then stacked to encourage extra whey to drain, then removed to go into a brining solution later.
We then stepped into the cooler, where we were greeted by lots and lots of cheese! Lida Gold is my favorite, and I was interested to learn how they paint a single layer of a wax-like substance over the initial layer of tomato, which prevents the tomato from molding - conditions are, of course, perfect for mold in this room, as it is quite humid. Then, they remove this layer before slicing and packaging. At Calkins, they produce a wide variety of cheeses, some of which are raw, some pasteurized, some wax-covered, and others not. All are delicious!
It was surprising to learn that Emily has been doing this for less than ten years. She and her husband, Jay Montgomery, started the venture in an effort to help her family farm. They moved back to the land, which is right near Emily’s childhood home, and decided to find a way to use their creativity and business savvy to find another outlet for the beautiful milk produced by the farm’s herd of Holstein cows. We were able to meet her father Bill, who cares for the herd along with Jay and Emily’s two brothers, and he was as friendly and welcoming as his daughter. The couple also has four children.
Bill led us to the barn to meet the cows that were pleasantly mooing at us when we drove in. They have a herd of almost 100 Holstein cows, who all look wonderfully healthy and happy. Though the day was beautiful, the weather overall was still cool and the fields still soggy, so the cows were still in their barns for the season. Once the fields dry up a bit, these ladies have full run of the farm in rotating pastures. (If cows go out to pasture too early in the season, they can get hoof rot or irritated udders from the muddy fields.) Luckily, there are beautiful, clean, airy barns filled with sounds of country music and all the grass a cow could want to eat. Bill explained the cows’ diets to us as he gave one a scratch on the head - they grow much of the grasses on their farm, and supplement with that from other local farms. The barn we were in also served as the milking parlor, where each cow gets milked right in her stall. During the rest of the year, the cows have to be led from the pasture to the barn twice a day to get milked. The milk is sent up a line to the bulk holding tank near the shop, where it is dispensed directly into the cheese-making vat (talk about farm fresh!). We walked over to the other barn where the younger cows were hanging out, getting some exercise, and eating more hay. These girls loved posing for pictures, too. :)
Next, we were delighted to check out the cheese cave, which was actually originally intended for use storing wine. Emily drove us to the location two miles down the road, and we hopped out of the car to see wooden doors that seemed to pop right out of the hillside. As we entered, it was immediately cold and dark. The ceiling of the cave is lined with chandeliers, and the previous owner seemed to have just up and left one day, as there are bottles and glasses of wine strewn across the entryway, now covered with spiderwebs. I asked Emily if she ever came down here alone - it looked like a haunted mansion! When we got over the splendor of this underground gem, we made our way to the back of the cave where the real beauty is hidden: shelves and shelves of aging cheese! These cheeses must be flipped every week so that the moisture doesn’t settle to one side and so that they age properly. Looking at the extensive inventory, I imagine this must take quite a while. Neither Harmony nor I had ever seen anything like this, and talked about the cheese cave on the way home!
We already enjoyed all of Calkins’ cheeses, having tried them at the market. After visiting this wonderful place, however, we feel a much stronger connection to the people and cows that provide such a great product. This family works so hard and takes good care of their animals and farm - we couldn’t ask for better folks creating the things that we like to eat!
Cooking and sampling collards with caramelized onion, orange, and dried cranberries! Great Day.
The Farm Explorer™ has arrived at Longview Farm! See it today from 10-2 as part of our Earth Day Celebration. See you soon! (3215 Stump Hall Road, Collegeville, PA 19426)
Want to see what’s inside the Farm Explorer™? Come to Longview Farm (3215 Stump Hall Road, Collegeville, PA) on Saturday, April 20, from 10-2, to find out! As part of our Earth Day celebration, we also welcome you to check out our chickens, farm rabbits, and the Little Lost Creek Alpacas. There will be crafts, food, and plenty to learn. Don’t miss it!
Lemon-poppyseed and Cranberry-orange scones - just some of life’s simple pleasures at the Longview Market.
Natural Egg Dyes - learn how to make your own at the Longview Market this Saturday, March 30th from 1:00-4:00pm.