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.