May 6th, 2006
Name: Twig Farm
Owners: Michael and Emily Lee (let’s not forget 8-month old Carter)
Location: West Cornwall, VT
Herd Size: 17 does, 14 kids
Cheeses: Twig Farm Cow’s Milk Tomme, Twig Farm Goat’s Milk Tomme, Twig Farm Wheel
More info: www.twigfarm.com
When someone says “Vermont farmstead cheese” I think people imagine a place like Twig Farm. Michael and Emily Lee milked 17 goats and in their first cheese-producing year and made 3,000 lbs of cheese. That is a little less than 60 lbs per week. In Vermont lingo they are “flat-landers” meaning they live down in Addison county where the landscape is somewhat conducive to farming. Their barn and home blend seamlessly into the surrounding land that is thick with spindly trees and brush. Their land is ideal for goats to work as goats are technically not grazers- they will eat grass but their preference is what is called browse. Basically this is anything you would not want to walk through if you were out for a stroll in shorts and sandals; the thickety bushes with tiny leaves and brambles. These inconvenient plants are the very things that can create such stunning flavors in Twig Farm’s cheeses. Michael commented that he wished he had an entire field of honeysuckle to put the goats in… we do too, but for the time being we will settle for the garden variety of plants that nature provides.
Michael is up at 4:45 AM for chores and to prepare the milking parlor. When weather permits he walks the goats out to small paddocks after their morning milking. They browse for the day and return to the barn around 4pm for the second milking. Sounds like lots of downtime in the middle of the day right? But there are many other things to be done even on a farm this size. Milk is collected from neighboring farms for cheesemaking (17 goats don’t produce enough milk for cheesemaking multiple times a week), chores in the barn, setting up fences around new paddocks, brining, washing and turning cheese in the cellar and then boxing up orders.
Although we slept through morning milking on our first day- we woke up to watch the goats doing their springtime pecking order exercises which consist of rearing up on their hind legs and coming down head to head with one another. We got to walk the goats out out to one of the paddocks with Michael, then I did a bit of cheese turning and patting in the cellar while he packed up some cheese for Saxelby Cheesemongers. He took a couple hours out of his day to sit down for an interview with us (we’ll be posting some clips soon). This brought us right up to the afternoon milking. We “helped” Michael a bit in the barn and then washed some fiddlehead ferns for the big cheesemaker feast…
Addison County is loaded with cheesemakers. On our second night at Twig Farm Michael and Emily offered to have some over for dinner so we could meet them and taste their cheeses. The meal was superb- both the company and the food. Along with Michael cooking a pork shoulder that slow cooked in some of his amazing goat’s milk, Carleton Yoder and his wife Moira from Champlain Valley Creamery brought two cheeses, mozzarella and a new soft-ripened, triple creme, and CHEESECAKE made with their ridiculously real cream cheese. Hannah Sessions from Blue Ledge Farm had two of the farm’s goat’s milk cheeses with her- the elegant Lake’s Edge and a new washed-rind that her husband Greg has been experimenting with. The new folks on the scene were the Crawfords (siblings Jim and Sherry) and their cheesemaker Maria Trumpler with their raw cow’s milk cheese Vermont Ayr. Of course Michael cracked open a wheel of Twig’s Soft Cheese for the occassion as well.
The opportunity to meet these cheesemakers was excellent and also made us just a tiny bit sad to know that while we are visiting many farms, for every one that we do see there are probably 5 more that we’re not seeing. Poor baby, I know- we don’t expect any sympathy from you- its just an observation!
Next stop: Vermont Butter and Cheese