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Foraging in the eyes of the beholder, Market offerings, Farm Happenings

Posted 8/8/2019 9:57pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

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Farm News

When the regular goat herders are not able to take the goats on their daily walk to the prairie, I take up the challenge.  With boots on and water gun slung over my shoulder, I strode confidently through the doe barn and called to the girls to join me. They seemed anxious to leave their now-parched fruit-tree shade park, and quickly formed a single file lane behind me. 

As I opened the gate to the prairie, they fanned out into the fallowed and overgrown south paddock of our pasture. Knowing that the hotwire fence was not active in this area, I decided to take a chance on letting them browse there.  There was so much lush vegetation that I figured they would be too occupied to test the boundaries.  We’ve been reading a book called “Nourishment” that posits the theory that animals seek out the foods that give them the nutrition they need at the time.  So, I decided to let the goats dictate their foraging pattern for the morning. Instead of leading them where I thought they should go, I let them seek out the plants they fancied. 

Some groups fixated on red clover flowers, while others gobbled down aster leaves.  I noticed the youngest does (the first fresheners) flitted from plant to plant, as if sampling along a buffet line.  I also noticed that the first fresheners migrated to the limits of the paddock, rebellious teenagers testing the boundaries, leaning over the flimsy fence to grab a mouthful of leaves on the other side (grass is always greener is their motto).  With a few squirts of the water gun, I was able to keep them in line and divert their attentions to tasty morsels within the paddock. 

Fly catchers and barn swallows swooped and dived overhead as the goats flushed insects from the standing vegetation.  Startled by a spray helicopter making passes of pesticides over a neighboring grain field, the goats ran toward the perimeter once more. I headed them off just in time, water gun to the rescue.  The helicopter retreated, and they relaxed into their browsing. Some sought the shade of an old shelter to chew their cud; a couple of the larger bodied does lay down and dined on the grasses within neck’s reach. I counted the number of species they foraged, eight in total, some supposedly noxious weeds like nightshade and smartweed.

Eirene chewing cud

Although they were content to keep foraging, after an hour and a half, I decided I would take the lead and called for them to follow me back into their fenced pasture. Most followed without protest; a few stragglers (mostly the first fresheners) held back hoping I wouldn’t notice.  Once back inside their main pasture, I notice the plethora of smartweed and nightshade that they hadn’t even touched. They seemed to prefer these same species in an uncharted territory. I’m convinced they have cravings, just like I pine for a bowl of ice cream from time to time. Their discriminating palates put to shame the most snobbish of restaurant critics.

Farm Store and Farmers’ Market Offerings

We got a brief and much needed thundershower this afternoon, but the weekend’s forecast is looking gloriously like summer. We’ve got a respectable lineup of cheeses and new flavors of gelato to offer you:  

  • Fresh chevre: plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper
  • Special summer herb chevre-we’ve got so many wonderful herbs in our herb garden this year that we’ve been drying a bunch and making blends to add to our chevre.  THIS WAS SUPER POPULAR last weekend, so we’re making another batch of it.
  • Goat Milk Feta in Whey Brine: our goat milk feta is firm and tangy. Bathed in a whey-salt brine for at least one month, the texture is what I call “creamy-crumbly.” LIMITED QUANTITY THIS WEEK. 
  • Angel Food-our little crottin style bloomy, it’s compact, firm in the center with a slightly gooey edge as it ages. This batch is just starting to age nicely, fudgy texture to the paste, slight softening along the edges with a slight hint of mushroom to the rind. We grilled some rounds whole for our farm dinner last Saturday, and it was divine, especially served with a tart jam or some caramelized onions.
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie-a goat milk camembert-style bloomy. This batch is YOUNG, but surprisingly flavorful. Slice over roasted summer veggies (squash, eggplant) or enjoy on a burger or with some local dry-cured salami.
  • Pelota Roja: our raw-milk “goat Manchego” style hard cheese with a guajillo chile-olive oil rub on the rind. We make this for Rick Bayless’s restaurants, but we reserve a few wheels to sell to our market customers. WE HAVE A LIMITED NUMBER OF WEDGES FROM THE BATCH WE JUST SENT TO FRONTERA GRILL, SO COME EARLY IF YOU WANT SOME). 

Cool off with a pint of gelato (3 pint special is still a thing—Buy 3, get $1/pint off): We have some new and exciting flavors for you this week, especially our black currant-whey sorbetto:

  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Peaches & Cream (Mileur Orchard Peaches-Murphysboro, IL)
  • Blackberry Cream (with our very own blackberries)
  • Salted Caramel Swirl
  • Nectarine Sorbetto (Mileur Orchard)
  • Black Currant-Whey Sorbetto—black currant puree from Agroforestry Solutions, whey from our creamery—so not strictly dairy free.  Give it a try! It’s delicious and good for you!

Can’t make it to the market on Saturday morning? No worries: the farm is open Thursdays and Fridays, 4-8 pm and weekends, Saturday and Sunday, 1-4 pm.

Our Thursday evening hours ended tonight, but we’ll still be open Fridays, 4-8 for a few more weeks. If you haven’t had a chance to watch the sun go down while you enjoy a glass of wine/beer and cheese board, under our pavilion, now’s your chance.

We offer a “build your own cheese board.”  You pick out the cheese(s) and accompaniments (jam, honey, pickled veggies or pecans), we provide you with a demi-baguette from Central Illinois Bake House. Complete the experience with a glass of wine or beer. Can’t decide what you want? Ask our staff for recommendations. 

Of course, you can visit with the goats (kids and adults alike), stroll through the orchard, and check out our herb and vegetable garden.  If you’re ambitious, you can walk along the path toward the creek.

Check out the local products and “merch” in our farm store:  

- maple syrup from “Sticky Peets”-southern OH maple syrup that oh so good!

- pecans (plain and cinnamon sugar) from Voss Pecan Orchard, Carlyle, IL

- Illinois Sparkling Wine Co/August Hill Winery (Peru IL) Champagne style Brut Rose and Pet Nat (Petit Natural)—ask for a taste; these wines are truly amazing from a local winery a couple hours north of us

-local honey from Two Million Blooms

-NEWLY stocked meats and poultry from Bane Family Meats (Sidney)

-Eggs from Moore Family Farm, Watseka, IL

-soaps from Red Barn Farm (including loofa soaps and liquid soap)

-Pancake mixes from Funks Grove Heritage Fruits & Grains-think pancakes with jam and chevre!

-Autumn Berry Jam-regular and jalapeno-we are restocked; these jams make excellent accompaniments to our cheeses

-Animal Welfare Approved Bandanas

-Our “Three Chippys” and “Damn Kids” tea towels

- Chippy the Chef Denim Aprons-soft, durable with three pockets for the most discerning chef in your family

- PFFC T-shirts—new colors, styles—check them out! New children’s t-shirts with the “damn kids” image on the front—quite adorable

-Charcuterie from Piemonte Sausage Co.  (pancetta, pork loin filleto and capocollo) as well as their frozen sausages (need to be cooked) OR salamis from Underground Meats

-locally milled flours from Janie’s Mill AND MORE!

Other Farm Happenings   

Goat Walk Happy Hour-August 22nd, 6-8 pm. We’ve changed up the format for the happy hour as well as the price ($35/person includes a glass of wine/beer, cheese and charcuterie platters, the escorted goat walk and a scoop of gelato to round out the evening), so check out the details and book your reservations NOW. We limit the number of guests to 35 so that you can really get a lot of “quality” time with the goats in the prairie. 

Dinners on the Farm Summer and early fall are the perfect times to experience one of our farm dinners. Check out this year’s take on our “100 Yard Dinner-Follow the Milk” at the end of August. While you’re on the website, peruse the other themes and dates coming up this fall.  Make your reservations now, as these fill up fast.

Behind the Scenes Tour & Tasting

Michael Darin, our special events coordinator extraordinaire, will be offering his next "Behind the Scenes" tours this weekend August 10th & 11th at 2 and 3 pm each day.  Patti Brewster, our Assistant Herd Manager will give the Saturday tours, and Michael will return on Sunday. The good news is that we will be extending these popular tours through the end of August and on a limited basis in mid-September.

For the tours, guests gather under the Prairie Pavilion to start. Michael gives a brief history about the farm and some background about the owners Wes Jarrell and Leslie Cooperband.  He then guides guests around the farm and creamery where they learn about raising goats, how the farm functions day-to-day, as well as how the creamery transforms our goat milk into delicious cheese and gelato.

The tour ends with an interactive cheese tasting in the Real Stand Farm Store or under the Pavilion (if weather permits).  Tours are conducted rain or shine, and last approximately 45-minutes. Please be prepared to walk around the farm; comfortable closed-toed shoes are advised. No reservations are required. Cost is $10 for adults, $6 for kids 12 and under. Glasses of wine or beer can be added to the tasting for a tour price of $6.   

Fall is gorgeous here on the farm Fall is just around the corner, and we’re planning some great events in October.  We will be doing a special “Fall Fest Pop Up with Pizza M” on October 20th and our “Cider Dayz” on October 27th. Details forthcoming, but for now, save the dates. 

Copyright 2019. Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery, LLC. 2019. All rights reserved. 4410 N. Lincoln Ave., Champaign, Illinois 61822 Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery, LLC is responsible for the content of this email. Please contact Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell with any inquiries.