Archive for May 19th, 2006

Westfield Farm: Changing Horses…er, goats

Bob_DebbieName: Westfield Farm
Owners: Bob & Debbie Stetson
Location: Hubbardston, Massachussetts
Animals: Westfield Farm gets it’s milk from four local goat dairies and cow dairies
Cheeses: Hubbardston Blue, Blue Log, Fresh Goat Cheeses (with various flavors - we highly recommend the Wasabi and Chocolate), Bluebonnet, Camembert, and many others
More Info: www.chevre.com

When we called Bob Stetson to confess that a 3pm arrival at Westfield Farm was a long shot, he graciously invited us to join him and his wife Debbie for dinner that evening. So we slogged through Boston rush hour traffic and pulled into a hotel near their farm where we had an interesting chat with the receptionist about the cheeses at Westfield Farm. She is a native of Hubbardston (where the farm is located) and said that one of her childhood friends who now lives out in California called her one day to tell her that a cheese was not only being made in their hometown but also written about in a national food magazine. This was clearly a point of curiosity and pride for them both- as she said, “Almost no one even knows where Hubbardston Massachusetts is, let alone that there is cheese being made there.” Kind of the classic tale of many small American cheesemakers- people across the country might know about them before members of their immediate community do.

The Stetson home is situated in a clearing near the top of a rolling hill in a town called Hubbardston. The house they live in is literally as old as our country and still in beautiful condition. Bob and Debbie moved here from Boston approximately ten years ago to take over the cheesemaking operation from Bob and Letty Kilmoyer who started the farm approximately ten years prior.

Westfield_Farm

As the story goes, Bob Kilmoyer (a university math professor) was asked by one of his students to watch a few of his goats for the summer and the student never returned- at least not for the goats- and thus began Westfield Farm. The herd grew, an entire line of cheeses were developed (not to mention a market for specialty goat milk cheeses), and a number of employees came on to work the farm and live with the Kilmoyers. Nearly a decade later, the workload and cooperative living got to be too much for the Kilmoyers and they decided to sell the goats and place a small ad in the Boston Globe for a goat cheesemaking business.

The Stetsons had been working in shipping in Boston and Bob had an increasing interest in shifting his work away from selling services- he wanted to produce something tangible. He saw the ad in the Globe and it piqued his interest. They drove out to visit and although they had never even tasted goat cheese, they saw the creamery as a viable business. So they moved in with the Kilmoyers shortly after that and learned about milk collection, cheesemaking and distribution. Approximately one month later the Stetsons were living the dream. Over the last ten years they have nearly tripled the volume of cheese produced on the farm. They made additions onto the cheesemaking facility shortly after taking over and now use the old barn for packaging and cold storage.

Westfield gets milk from four local goat dairies. These dairies have evolved because Westfield Farm created a local market for goat milk. A couple of the dairies they work with shifted from cow dairying to goats because there is now more money in selling goats milk for cheese than selling fluid cows milk. The weekly make schedule seems relatively set and since most of the cheeses are fresh (less than 60 days old) the majority of their cheese are pasteurized.

Ten years into the business Bob and Debbie are still encouraged by the tactile nature of what they do. They modestly give nearly all the credit to the Kilmoyers who, for all intents and purposes, established the farm, the vision, and got the cheese on the radar of retailers and restaurants. That said, it is rare to find people willing to take over an established business who understand which pieces they should tinker with and which they should leave alone. Lucky for all consumers of Westfield Farm cheeses, the Stetsons are indeed that kind of people. We will take their modesty so long as they continue to pump out their delectable line of goat and cow milk cheeses.

Hubbardston_Blue

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