Thoughts on the farm

February 16th, 2006

This past weekend Michael and I made our way to Jasper Hill Farm. We had visited the farm a couple times before this weekend which made it an ideal first stop for our tour. The farm involves two brothers- Andy and Mateo Keehler, and their families. Although on previous trips we’ve spent time in the various parts of the operation- the cheese house, the barn, the cellar, and even each of their dinner tables- this time was different.

Part of the difference was in us- we were paying much closer attention to how things worked and listening carefully for the sounds of the place. The farm itself has also changed, the ground is covered with snow and the foundation has been laid for a new barn across the dirt road from the existing barn. This was the first time we’ve been to visit when the cows are all inside the barn because the danger of them slipping on ice or losing sound footing in mud is too high. There are some new faces on the farm too- Amy, Josh, Princess, and Tim- the four of them help in all areas of the operation.

Although we arrived late Friday night, we didn’t sit down to interview Mateo until late Sunday afternoon. Given how busy they are it is difficult to get both brothers in a room together so we will return later to talk with Andy. Over the last two years I have talked to Mateo in depth about the farm, and yet in this conversation, I learned so much more. It leaves me with the feeling that we had just scratched the surface.

Mateo made one statement that stuck with me- I found myself thinking about it all day today. He said- and I paraphrase here- that the creation of Jasper Hill Farm was his and Andy’s response to the globalization of our economy. He fully acknowledges that he and his brother rely on that economy in many ways - he is not in denial, he is aware of the situation and taking action. This inspired me to think today about things that weigh heavy on my mind and conscience.

I find it disconcerting that we’ve lost a connection with what it takes to produce the majority of what we consume. Listening to Mateo speak about the reality of what it takes to “live the dream” on the farm was satisfying in a way that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Today, back in the cheese caves, it struck me that maybe this project, this effort to explore the production of hand-made cheese and share it with the public, is my response.

Entry Filed under: Makers, Ruminations, Jasper Hill Farm

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Steve Ehlers  |  February 28th, 2006 at 5:47 pm

    This sounds like a wonderful exciting project. I am in Milwaukee, Wi. Let me know if I can help in any way.

  • 2. Jack  |  March 4th, 2006 at 1:04 pm

    Hi,

    I’m very much looking forward to reading about more of your visits to artisan cheese producers.

    I do have two requests, though -

    One: Add an email address to your blog.

    Two: Tell us about the cheeses! Today I received an email from Michael at Cowgirl Creamery raving about the new cheese from Jasper Hill Farm, Winnemere. Yet there’s no mention of this cheese here. (Yes, I’m giving you a perplexed look.)

    - Jack

  • 3. sasha  |  March 4th, 2006 at 4:15 pm

    The more important question is how have I worked in cheese for almost
    three years without knowing aobut your site (www.forkandbottle.com)??? It is awesome- i just spent 30 minutes looking at the chocolate sections!

    So, yes we did overlook Winnemere… we are in our infancy and we are
    planning to have a standard format for each farm’s profile- which would
    give basic “stats” about the farm- including the cheeses they make. We’ve
    been selling Winnemere for a few months at Murray’s- the real kicker the
    weekend we were there was that we got a taste of a one-time experimental
    batch of Winnemere where Mateo had washed the curd (drained half of the
    whey out of the vat during cheesemaking and replaced it with water). Very
    similar to Winnemere- same sweet milky flavor balanced by a solid dose of
    salty pungency however the texture is different- more firm.

    I don’t believe he is going to produce it regularly- kind of one of those
    Cowgirl SF Drake finds.

    Good catch on the email address- we’re adding one this weekend!

    Thanks again for listening in- we will hit the road in early May- so keep
    an eye out for many more posts then.

  • 4. Jack  |  March 5th, 2006 at 12:50 am

    Well, we’ve been live on the internet since mid-June, 2005 - not 3 years. Further, it takes time for search engines to find you, get page ranked, etc.

    It takes a while to figure out how best to do write-up a visit, an event, etc. Almost 9 months later (for us) and we still haven’t figured out the best way of doing things - but I think we keep getting better. Our earliest pages are not very well done.

    Looking forward to early May!

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