Even before we moved to Pat Morford’s neighborhood I was a huge fan of her cheese. Her legendary, smokey, leaf-wrapped chevre- Up in Smoke- landed at Murray’s Cheese just in time for Thanksgiving back in 2004 and my enthusiasm for her products is still going strong. Her herd has grown some since we visited her farm on our tour but she is still cranking out some of the best goat’s milk cheeses to be found in the U.S. Pat’s personality really comes through in this piece- she’s direct, quick to laugh, and very much present to the risks and challenges inherent in the artisan cheese business.
River’s Edge Chevre Interview (Three Ring Farm)
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Up next: Beecher’s Handmade Cheese
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June 5th, 2009
Name: Rivers Edge Chevre
Owner: Pat Morford
Location: Logsden, OR
Animals: 38 milking goats, largely Alpines. Goal is to grow to 60 milking.
Cheeses/Products: Chevre (flavored and marinated), Humbug, Full Moon, aged goat tomme
More Info: threeringfarm.com (the farm is called Three Ring Farm the cheese business is Rivers Edge Chevre)
The drive out to Pat Morford’s farm was gorgeous and also in line with our goal to get away from the 112 degree heat of Oregon’s sweltering I-5 corridor. Rivers Edge Chevre is about 10-15 miles inland from the town of Newport on the Oregon coast. We headed out of Portland the Sunday following the American Cheese Society conference and made it to Pat’s in time for a brief introduction, a quick tour, and a few minutes to set up the schedule for the following day.
Pat’s farm is exactly as she has drawn it on her label- drooping Sitka Spruce and Douglas Firs along the edge of the open pasture, goats and a handful of sheep frolicking up into the forest a bit or retreating from the sun in the loafing shed. She has had goats since she was a small girl and remembers clearly the names of the first three her father purchased. Stripes was traded, Jack and Pinky stuck around long enough to provide some good meat for tamales.
She has lived all around the northern end of the Oregon coast, first on a boat with her partner George for a few years. They knew about this beautiful river valley and began to think about land-living so they started knocking on some doors in Logsden. The first man they asked said he wasn’t selling but then promptly died shortly thereafter so they purchased the 7 acres he had and bought 5 more adjoining acres the following year when they came up for sale giving them the 12 acres they have today.
They started with five dairy goats as a milk source for their family but also as a potential business concept to produce goat milk to sell to cow dairies as replacement milk for calves. George went full boar and purchased 27 goats which Pat, knowing genetics for milk production (having had dairy goats her whole life for personal milk consumption), narrowed down to 3 worthwhile producers and sold off the other 24. She began to build the herd in 1990, buying a buck from Mary Keehn (Cypress Grove) and soon she was placing in the top ten for dairy goats in competitions. They tried selling goat milk to a cheesemaker who moved to their area but that didn’t last so long and all the while, the local fishing economy- George’s profession- was in serious decline. So they decided in 1993 that they wanted to do something “real” and began collecting cheesemaking equipment, as Pat understood that the only way you make money from milk is to add value to it.
At this stage they found out how difficult it was to get a loan to go into the goat dairy/cheesemaking business. Pat went out and got a full time job at a local market to help them get approved for the loan required for them to construct the dairy. I made note of the fact that Pat mentioned that she and George had never carried debt in her life until she got into dairy. That said- they did some amazing things with their loan… The ground floor of the building they constructed houses the milking parlor, the milk room (read bulk tank), cheesemaking, maturing and cold storage while the upstairs contains the living space for Pat and her family.
When we came back the following morning both of Pat’s daughters were busy in the cheese room. Astraea was packing chevre in glass jars with beautiful herbs- most of them coming directly from their garden. Her older daughter, Spring, was busy washing molds because the pasteurizer was running - meaning that they would ladel curd into the molds that afternoon.
Pat has devoted incredible focus to her cheesemaking. It had been almost one year since I had tasted her bloomy rind cheeses as samples at Murray’s in New York and the change in them is incredible, a beautiful expression of the carefully produced milk on their farm. I know that creating this dairy has required considerable sacrifice for Pat and her family and I am so hopeful that the business will begin to pay them back steadily.
August 15th, 2006