News

Welcome to Leslie's Blog.
Posted 5/9/2014 7:46am by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

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What’s in a name?

We’re drawn to naming things; naming creatures, naming each other, giving nicknames, real names, pseudonyms.  We give names to our goat kids as they’re born—they get their mother’s name and a birth number. This is a very latin approach to naming (taking both the mother’s and father’s names).  We don’t decide their true names until we decide who we’re keeping. This doesn’t refrain us from giving them nicknames—fuzz ball for the really furry Katie baby, zebra for the Zora baby—you get the picture. 

Of course, we name our cheeses too. As American artisan cheese makers, we’re not burdened by European rules of protected denominations based on milk types and regions.  We can take basic recipes for cheeses (tomme, bloomy rind, etc.), spin them to suit our milk or farmstead environment and call our cheese creation whatever we like. I often chuckle when someone comes to our stand at the farmers’ market and looks at our chalk board list of cheeses and remarks, “Oh, what’s ‘Moonglo?’ I’ve never heard of that cheese.”  So it goes with our cheese “Angel Food,” a goats’ milk brie style cheese. We’ve decided to experiment with new shapes and techniques for making this cheese this season, and we’ve received some interesting feedback.  We’ve discovered that some of our customers have very strong feelings for the original version of Angel Food (a 3 inch disc, ½ inch thick with gooey interior and white mold rind). “Don’t change it!” they insisted. Other folks embraced our new version after tasting it.  Still, others didn’t even notice the change and just recognized the name and bought it. 

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We’ve also changed our farm name (legally that is) from Prairie Fruits Farm, LLC to Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery, LLC to acknowledge in a legal sense the important and critical  business role of our dairy and farmstead creamery. We’ve changed our logo too, our packaging---lots of changes this year. Like our goats, many people are averse to change or confused by change. Several people who stopped by our stand didn’t realize that we were Prairie Fruits Farm initially (until they tasted our chevre and then it all came flooding back to them).  Lots of folks commented on our new packaging—most folks liked the new look; a few pined for the original design.  Names are important; names have meaning attached to them.    Names are loaded with emotion. I have to remember this.

Farmers’ Markets and Food on the Farm

We’re attending one farmers’ market this Saturday, May 10th: Urbana’s Market on the Square.  We’ll be there from 7-12 with lots of cheese and some gelato:

Fresh chevre—plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper

Fresh goat milk ricotta: It’s BAACK!! what better way to celebrate spring and mother’s day with a pizza topped with our fresh ricotta!

Experimental bloomy—another version of our NEW Angel Food—check it out and let us know what you think

Little Bloom on the Prairie—these camembert-style  rounds are young,  but quite tasty. You can enjoy them young, or let them age for a  week in your refrigerator.

Sheep milk feta: We’re dipping into our last two buckets of well-aged feta, so if you’re loving this complex feta, come and get it. We won’t be making more feta this year.  It is keeping remarkably well.

Moonglo: The last of our late fall batches, this cheese is tart, somewhat dry and great for shaving or grating over some of those fresh spring asparagus you’re finding at the markets.

Huckleberry Blue: our raw goat milk blue cheese whose rind was cloaked in a pear-brandy-soaked sycamore leaf—very approachable for a blue cheese.

We will have a limited offering of gelato this Saturday:

  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Hazelnut
  • Honey Chevre
  • Margot’s Mint

More Food on the Farm

We’re launching a new food venture at the farm this year. We’re calling it “Third Fridays Pop Up.” The third Friday of every month, we’re opening our doors for a simple (and delicious, but that goes without saying) special-themed meal on the farm. You can enjoy live music too. No reservations are required!   NEXT Friday May 16th; 5:30 to 7:30 PM Enjoy local jazz musicians New Orleans Jazz Machine play on the farm from 5:30 to 7:30 pm. Our chefs will be pedaling dishes from the Big Easy, including:  

  • Local chicken and sausage gumbo
  • Muffaletta sandwiches
  • Andouille Po Boys
  • Savory corn beignets for the vegetarians
  • Bread pudding for dessert
  • Sweet tea and Homer sodas

All items are priced a la carte and first-come- first-serve. Children are welcome. BYOB. Bring chairs or blankets if you'd like to sit outside.  

In addition to this new food event, we still have a few seats open for our Sunday Dinner Club Memorial Day weekend Dinner and our June 14th Wild Game Dinner through our  "Dinners on the Farm Series.”  Also, We’ll be opening reservations to the next five dinner dates on Friday, May 16th at 12 noon, so mark your calendars.  Stay tuned for postings about future events. We’re planning a  lot of exciting opportunities to dine on the farm this coming season!



Copyright 2014 Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery, LLC. 2014. 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.

Posted 5/1/2014 9:37pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

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Farm News

May Day, May 1st; the day we celebrate the labors of workers around the world.  We celebrate the folks who toil tirelessly in unglamorous jobs. We salute the farmers and farm workers whose sweat puts food on our tables.  Here at Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery, we raise a glass to our own cadre of workers—our wonderful staff who milk the goats, till & plant the fields, shovel the goat manure, make the cheese, wash all those dishes and prepare the beautiful foods that come out of our farm kitchen. 

I would be remiss if I don't recognize our caprine workers; our dairy goats. Day in, day out, twice daily for ten months out of the year, they line themselves up to come into the milking parlor to give up their milk to a set of inflations.  I won’t say they do this without some complaining—some complain quite a bit, especially the first fresheners.  Once habituated to their routine, they fall in line.  Without their willingness to produce baby goats every year and then, produce milk for us to transform into cheese, gelato and other dairy products, our farm would be a ship with no sail. Thank you goat workers!  More grain for you in the parlor tomorrow morning!

First Farmers’ Markets of the Season

This Saturday, May 3rd, is the first outdoor market in Urbana and Chicago’s Green City Market. We’ll be attending both markets with plenty of cheese and gelato. Come visit us from 7-12 in Urbana and 7-1pm in Lincoln Park (Chicago).

For cheese, we’ll have:

Fresh chevre: plain, herbs de Provence, cracked black peppercorn

Sheep milk feta: try our feta on roasted asparagus or sauteed spring greens

An experimental bloomy rind cheese (it might become the new Angel Food, so let us know what you think)

Moonglo: it’s sharp, it’s tangy, it’s a perfect accompaniment to your favorite jam or shave it on some roasted spring veggies

Eldon (sheep milk blue): crumble it on a spring salad and rejoice!

Huckleberry Blue (our raw, goat milk blue): the first of our fall goat milk blue cheeses wrapped in pear brandy-soaked sycamore leaves—dense and rich, it’s plain yummy

Gelato Flavors 

  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Hazelnut
  • Ginger
  • Honey Chevre (this is only flavor that will travel north to Chicago as it’s the only local ingredients flavor we have right now)

We look forward to greeting our market patrons. The weather should be perfect-we’ll see you there. 



Copyright 2014 Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery, LLC. 2014. 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.

Posted 4/30/2014 3:11pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

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Spring Brunch on the Farm

We've got seats still available for our spring brunches: May 3rd and May 10th.  We have amazing menus planned for each event including elaborate egg dishes, sumptuous pastries and  platters of cheeses.  The deadline for sign up for this weekend's brunch is 9:30 AM tomorrow. With a start time of 10:30 AM you'll have plenty of time to shop the farmers' market, drop off your groceries at home and head on over to the farm to enjoy some fresh from the farm spring cooking.  The deadline for sign-up for the May 10th brunch is Monday, May 5th.  

For more details and links to our show clix reservations pages, go to our website's Food on the Farm section.

Cheese Bread and Gelato CSA

The deadline for sign up for our CSA (biweekly pickups from late May through mid-November) is Friday, May 9th. You can sign up for several cheese options as well as breads from Stewart's Artisan Breads. We also offer one or two pints of gelato per pickup.  As a special bonus, members can sign up for a CSA members only dinner on the farm.  Check out the details.

Copyright 2014 Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery, LLC. 2014. 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.

Posted 4/24/2014 8:59pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

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Farm News

We celebrated “Earth Day” this week. Earth Day, a political holiday, established more than 40 years ago, captured the mood of a country fed up with dirty air, dirty water and a polluted planet.  The externalities of prosperity in the 19th and 20th centuries had finally caught up with us, and we could no longer ignore the dark side of economic successes.  I think about how earth day shaped my awareness of the environment as a teenager.  Back then, my environmental consciousness was just forming: my outrage as backyard woodlands were bull-dozed for houses, my single-minded determination to “save the whales.”

Today, as a farmer and a soil scientist, a care taker of livestock, a maker of cheese, I reflect on what Earth Day means to me now.  As a farmer, I am in tune with the seasons, the changes in weather patterns, the effects of climate change on how things grow.  Our fruit orchard, our bees; these have been affected profoundly by climate change.   The increased unpredictability of weather has taken its toll on our fruit: warm winters forcing flower buds to burst only to be smitten down by freezing temperatures in late April.  Polar vortices dipped down into regions that haven’t seen minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit in decades, if ever. Here we are at the end of April with barely a flower in bloom.  The frigid arctic fingers that clutched firmly onto peach branches have left their mark; we’re hard pressed to find any flower buds on those branches. 

As a caretaker of livestock and a cheese maker, I think about the impact of our farm on the landscape and environment at large.  I worry about our farm’s carbon footprint. Does our decision to transform cash grain agriculture into perennial pastures, hayfields and orchards make our footprint smaller? Does our goat manure compost restore our prairie soils to their former carbon sink glory?   What about the whey that we spread on our fields? Is it helping our pastures grow during the more frequent summer droughts?  I think about the relationships between goat-cheese-whey-soil-pasture-goat—the cyclical nature of it all. 

Earth Day has acute and serious meaning for me now. My awareness of the connectedness of all things in nature is on edge at all times.  I don’t need a national holiday for the environment to remind me anymore, but it’s good to have one to remind others not tied so intimately to the land.

Spring Breakfast and Farm Open House: The last one of the season—come and get ‘em

This Saturday, April 26th from 9AM to 12 noon, we’ll open our doors for the last spring breakfast of the season.  Although the Illinois Marathon will be taking place Saturday morning, you should be able to get out to the farm without too much trouble. Check their website for the routes, road closures and times of the race. We’re going out in style with:

  • Breakfast Torta: fried egg, chorizo, black beans, salsa, chevre, pickled onions all balanced on a baguette bun
  • Blueberry Pancakes with butter, whipped cream and maple syrup
  • Kids short stack of pancakes
  • Three Sisters Garden Oatmeal with vanilla goat milk yogurt, apricot preserves, honey and almonds
  • Snickerdoodle Muffins
  • Medley of local cheeses “Gougere
  • Chef Alisa had some ramps left over from our “Ramp Fest” celebration with The Land Connection, so she’s making a few ramp and feta quiches—limited offering, so get here early for a slice of quiche.
  • Beverages: Herriott’s Coffee and Tea, Goat Milk Hot Chocolate, Old Heritage Creamery Drinkable Yogurt

We’ll also have farm products for sale including cheese:

  • Fresh chevre: plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper
  • Sheep milk feta—it is still complex and delicious
  • Moonglo
  • Eldon—sheep milk blue 

Tomahnous Farm will be here with spring greens, potted plants and hopefully more of those delicious shitake mushrooms

Stewart’s Artisan Breads will be here with breads, bagels, pastries, cookies and granola

Cow Creek Farm (Rita Glazik) MIGHT be here with ramps (not confirmed as of today)

Breakfast season may be over, but we’ve got two brunches slated for the first two Saturdays in May. We’re doing a single seating from 10:30 to 12 and seating is LIMITED, so don’t delay—book a reservation NOW. Deadline for the May 3rd Brunch is MONDAY, April 28th.  Want to bring your kids? Children under 12 can have brunch at half the price!! For more details, visit our ShowClix page. 



Copyright 2014 Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery, LLC. 2014. All rights reserved. 4410 N. Lincoln Ave., Champaign, Illinois 61822. Please contact Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell with any inquiries.

Posted 4/17/2014 9:39pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

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Farm News

This past Tuesday, we hosted 90 first graders from the town of Westville, Illinois for a tour of the farm and a tasting of our dairy products.  Westville is a small rural town just south of Danville, and the kids bounded off their school buses with an air of confidence belying their rural roots.  There were no noses held close as we entered the doe barn (that is often a reaction we get when city kids visit the farm). They had no fear of the free roaming hens. In fact, their classes had been incubating fertilized eggs and watched as baby chicks hatched from them.  When we discovered an egg that one of the hens had laid in the hay feeder in the doe barn, they became very excited about the prospect of a chick inside. I had to explain a bit about the “birds and the bees” and how you need a rooster to get a fertilized egg, that, in turn, would produce a chick. Based on the quizzical and slightly disappointed look on the child’s face, I’m not really sure if that concept registered fully.

When we entered the milking parlor, there were a few upturned noses and reactions to the smells; I find that many small children seem to react strongly to the odors of the milking parlor much more so than the smells of the barn.  I’m not sure if they have heightened olfactory senses relative to adults, or if the mixture of milk, iodine and sanitizer create a potent odor combination that strikes a specific nasal nerve in young people. 

The sensitivity subsided quickly as I explained how we milk the goats. At this point, one of the boys asked me, “What’s a teat?”  His teacher looked at me with smile, wondering how I was going to answer that question.  I explained how the teats are located at the base of the udder where the milk comes out and reminded them of the udders they saw on the does in the doe barn.  He seemed to be satisfied with my response and the teacher nodded approvingly (intimating that I had dodged that bullet quite well).  As I explained how the milk traveled from the goats’ udders through the pipeline into the bulk tank and then on to the cheese vat (they had already seen the cheese room and the cheese vats), another child asked how the milk became cheese. What a profound question!! : Such a simple question that requires such a complex answer.  I decided to invoke the nursery rhyme of little Miss Muppet sitting on her tuffet eating her curds and whey.  I’m not sure if this imagery was reassuring or not, but we moved on to tasting the cheese and gelato, and that satisfied them.  Interestingly, all of the children were brave enough to sample the cheese while several of the chaperone parents declined.  I am in awe of the minds of six-year olds: non-judgmental and still eager to be taken in by the wonders of nature.

Saturday Breakfast AND Farm Open House

This Saturday, April 21st from 9AM to 12 noon, we’ve got quite a special menu for you:

  • A breakfast sandwich of “Smoking Goose” city ham, fried egg, 2-yr. aged, raw milk cheddar, béchamel mustard and pickles (if you can eat this in one bite, you’ve got a really big mouth!!)
  • Three Sisters Garden oatmeal with Madagascar vanilla goat milk yogurt, apricot preserves, toasted almonds and prairie fruits farm honey
  • Blueberry pancakes with maple syrup, butter and whipped Kilgus cream
  • Kids stack of pancakes with syrup, butter and whipped cream
  • Oat scones with maple glaze
  • Palmiers
  • “Easter cakes”: your choice of either chocolate or vanilla cupcakes decorated ‘whimsically’ for the spring holiday
  • The usual drinks: Old Heritage Creamery drinkable yogurt, Herriott’s fair trade coffee and tea AND our goats’ milk hot chocolate

The fresh farm products are starting to proliferate too:, just in time for preparing your special holiday meals:

We’ll have plenty of cheese including fresh chevre,  Moonglo, feta and sheep milk blue (Eldon).

Stewart’s Artisan Breads will have breads, bagels, pastries, cookies and granola

Tomahnous Farm will have spring greens, carrots, potted plants and the first flush of SHITAKE MUSHROOMS!!!

Blue Moon Farm will be here with salad mix, spinach, arugula, claytonia, carrots, parsley and baby bok choy

THERE WILL BE RAMPS TOO courtesy of the Glasiks!!

Please make sure you stop by the table inside our barn to discuss the status of the Olympian Drive Project. While we have lost the battle over funds for the bridge over the railroad tracks, our fight to stop this road project continues. Please consider making a donation to our cause and enter the raffle to win dinner tickets. 

We still have seats available for our spring brunches in May and our Wild Game Dinner in June.  Visit our ShowClix page to get more details and to make reservations.


Copyright 2014 Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery, LLC. 2014. 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.

Posted 4/10/2014 8:22pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

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Farm News

There’s an existential quality to the spring this year; the feeling that every being must forge ahead, independent of a hostile unpredictable environment, despite the climate’s attempts to keep life’s renewal at bay.  I noticed spring trying to take charge this week.  There are the very tiny crocuses pushing their way out still frigid soils.  There was the intense rainbow that appeared in the eastern sky Tuesday afternoon as the winds shifted from north to south and the raindrops couldn’t quite make up their minds whether to stay or go. 

rainbow of spring

There’s the greening wheat field to the south of our farm; its bald spots confirming the damage of the extreme cold temperatures it had to endure in January and February.  Humans are forcing their will against a reluctant landscape too—we’re tilling and planting, we’re pruning our fruit trees with buds on the verge of bursting, our goats are having babies—we’re moving forward with or without the help of mother nature.  Sometimes we just have to take matters into our own hands. Let’s create our own spring, if she’s is unwilling to show herself to us!

Farm Open House, Breakfast and Matters of Seasonal Importance

This Saturday, April 12th, we’ll be open again from 9AM to 12 noon.  We’ve got a fantastic lineup of breakfast (maybe brunch even) foods for you:

  • “Lower East Central” breakfast sandwich: local beef meatball, Prairie Fruits Farm organic tomato marinara, fried egg, pickled onions and peppers & feta cheese on a Pekara Bakery bun—I dare you to eat this by yourself!
  • Three Sisters Garden oatmeal , goat milk yogurt & crunchy granola
  • Short stack of pancakes, whipped Kilgus cream, Spence Farm maple syrup
  • “Bagel bombs:” an “everything” bagel stuffed with jalapeno chevre & roasted pork belly—this item should be outlawed it’s so good!!!
  • Raspberry coffeecake with lemon curd & lemon streusel
  • Beverages include: Old Heritage Creamery drinkable yogurt, Herriott’s fair trade coffee & tea, goats’ milk hot chocolate

Looking for some great local foods to take home?

We’ll have plenty of fresh chevre, sheep milk feta, Moonglo and Sheep milk Blue cheese on hand—if you haven’t tried our cheeses yet, we encourage you to sample them at the farm. Want to show off your connection to Prairie Fruits Farm? Take home a t-shirt or a few bars of our goat milk soap.  

Stewart’s Artisan Breads will be here with an assortment of breads, bagels, pastries , cookies and granola

Tomahnous Farm will be here with early season greens, carrots, potted plants and more.

SPECIAL GUEST FARMER: Stickey Petes Maple Syrup from Athens, Ohio.  Laura McManus taps hundreds of maple trees in southern Ohio, and brings us some of the best maple syrup you will ever taste west of the Appalachian Mountains. She’ll be bringing syrup in quarts, pints, 12 oz. and 8 oz., various sizes of fancy maple leaf bottles as well as maple sugar, maple leaf candies and maple crusted almonds. She grew up in Downs IL, so that’s local enough for me.

While you all are enjoying yourselves at the farm this Saturday, I will be sampling our cheeses at the Pastoral Artisan Producer Festival in Chicago’s French Market. In its fourth year, this festival features some of the finest artisanal food products from around the Midwest. If you’re in Chicago, please come see me. I’ll be there from 11 AM to 3 PM.  For more information, check out their website.

Posted 4/8/2014 9:57pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

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We're growing "food" out here at Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery. We have several special events coming up in the next couple of months that should make your mouths water:

April 22nd: "Ramp Fest" This fundraiser event celebrates the important work of The Land Connection.  This non-profit organization, now in it's second decade, has pioneered beginning farmer training in Illinois and helping connect folks who own farmland with those who want to farm it sustainably.  Early spring is the time when wild leeks or "ramps" emerge from the local woodlands.  Their delicate and distinct leek-like flavor make many savory dishes come alive.  The Land Connection has begun to put down roots in central Illinois with new offices in Champaign.  Come out to Prairie Fruits Farm on April 22nd, enjoy a multi-course meal featuring ramps and support the important work of The Land Connection. A large portion of the ticket price is a tax-deductible donation to the The Land Connection. Seating is limited and time is running out to make reservations to this event.  Visit their website for more information.

Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery Brunches in May

As most of you know by now, we have streamlined out breakfast menu this year to expedite the growing crowds who come out in March and April. We are pleased to announce that we will be serving several of the dishes that have become "classics" over the years at two family -style brunches May 3rd and May 10th. We will be selling only 80 tickets to each of these very special events.

There will be two seatings at each event: one from 9:30a.m to 11a.m and one from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. The first seating will go on sale first, and when full, we will open the second seating for sale. The menu will be different at each event, so come to both if you wish!

The first weekend's main dish will be Eggs in Purgatory: eggs poached in organic, heirloom, PFF tomato sauce served with polenta cakes. Other menu items include: Pain Perdu, Virgin Bloody Marys, feta and mushroom tart, locally-made breakfast sausage and a selection of breakfast pastries.  To make reservations for the first seating, visit our Show Clix site.

The second menu will feature oat waffles with poached farm eggs and creole hollandaise sauce, maple glazed bacon, breakfast strata, carrot cardamom "pop tarts", Virgin Bloody Marys and a selection of baked goodies. To make reservations for the first seating, visit our Show Clix site.

Both events will be BYOB and cost $40 per person (includes gratuity). Tickets for the first seating of both dates go on sale TOMORROW--WEDNESDAY, APRIL 9TH AT 12 NOON. Visit our Show Clix page to make reservations. 

Looking for tickets to our regular farm dinner season? We have a few seats still available for the May 31st (2 seats left) and June 14th (11 seats left) dinners. Go to our Event Series page at Show Clix and click on those specific dates to make reservations. 



Posted 4/3/2014 8:48pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

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Farm News

The adage of March’s comings and goings (“in like a lion and out like a lamb”) did not ring true this year.  The lion’s paw gripped firmly onto winter, whipping cold winds across our vulnerable open soils.  The silver lining to March’s winds was soil drying. With compost spread, and soils drying, we capitalized on a narrow window of ideal moisture conditions for tillage.  Since we don’t own any large-scale tillage equipment, we called on the graces of our neighbor farmer, Scott Ziegler.  He came on Tuesday with a chisel plow and tilled composted pasture fields within a couple of hours.   

spring tillage

 

As small-scale livestock and perennial agriculture farmers, whose biggest tractor is a John Deere 40-20 and our most common tillage implement is a BCS roto-tiller, we sometimes succumb to large farm implement envy.  The hulking tractors (with enclosed cabs), the foot-ball-field girth of the tillage implements, the seeming ease with which they slice and churn the sod-laden soil: it’s all so seductive.  Knowing it would have taken us over a week to till the same 10 acres that our neighbor tilled in two hours, I can see why a humble farmer could be smitten by the large moving pieces of green or red metal.   

Back in the doe barn, we spent our first day of April deep in spring cleaning.  With most of our compost windrows spread on the fields, we now have plenty of room for fresh manure to start decomposing anew.  The does spent most of the day outside, waiting for their barn to be cleaned and rearranged for summer.  The slightly warmer temperatures were buffered by the strong winds, giving the does cause to whine and complain about getting some fresh air.   

We reconfigured the barn with an open floor plan; it’s so spacious, I don’t know what they’ll do with all that room for lounging.  When they were finally let back in, they sprinted from side to side, checking out the new space, lapping up mineral and kelp newly stocked in their feeders and re-establishing their dominance hierarchies (gotta butt some heads ‘cause the ones you butted outside are surely different than the ones you can butt inside—I’m slightly anthropomorphizing about what runs through a goat’s brain).   

Saturday Open House: It’s time for Hot Breakfast This Saturday, April 5th, from 9 AM to 12 noon, we’ll be offering a slightly more elaborate farm breakfast:

  • Breakfast sandwich with Pekara baguette bun, roasted pork belly, fried egg, grilled pickled red onion, smoked PFF ketchup AND pepper jellied-chevre (quite a mouthful).  For vegetarians, we’ll lose the pork and substitute a sauté of Blue Moon Farm greens. 
  • Three Sisters Oatmeal with goat milk yogurt and cranberry granola crunch
  • Our “kids” short stack of pancakes served with Spence Farm maple syrup, butter and Kilgus whipped cream.
  • Butterscotch Buns
  • Hot chocolate, Herriott’s Fair Trade Coffee and Hot Tea  

Our farmer vendors will be outside selling their local food wares. We’ll have our delicious selection of cheeses:

  • Fresh chevre: plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper
  • Sheep milk Feta
  • Moonglo
  • Eldon-Sheep Milk Blue

We’ll also have some goat milk caramels and the FIRST OF THE SEASON GOAT MILK GELATO:

Vanilla, Espresso, Chocolate, Hazelnut, Gianduja  

Blue Moon Farm will be here with salad mix, spinach, kale, chard, potatoes, carrots, baby bok choy and parsley

Tomahnous Farm will have lots of plants, salad mix, cut herbs, carrots, garlic, potatoes, and arugula

Stewart’s Artisan Breads will have breads, bagels, cookies, granola and pastries

Celebrate spring and Earth Day AT THE SAME TIME: Come to the farm for “Ramp Fest” and help support The Land Connection—April 22nd, 6:00 PM.

Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery has been teaming up with The Land Connection this past year to host beginning farmer training (Farm Beginnings). For those of you not familiar with this central Illinois non-profit organization, they’ve been around for just over a decade, slowly building up the population of new sustainable farmers and helping farm land-owners connect with farmers who need land to farm.  Little by little, they have been creating a network of sustainable farmers who are beginning to sell their products throughout Illinois. 

Ramp Fest refers to the spring celebration of wild ramps (like a leek or wild onion) that grow in woodlands throughout much of the Midwest and eastern states. These deliciously alliaceous (that’s the fancy word for onion) plants are true harbingers of spring, as they’re one of the first green plants to emerge from the woodland soils before the trees leave out and shade the forest floor below them.  This spring festival used to be an annual event for The Land Connection, when it was head-quartered in other parts of the state.  We’re hosting a “ramp fest” to acknowledge the valuable work of The Land Connection, help them raise some funds and celebrate the start of the growing season. 

Tickets can be purchased at their website: http://thelandconnection.org/community/ramp-fest Seating is limited, so don’t delay in getting your tickets. 

 

Posted 3/27/2014 10:21pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

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 Farm News

We’ve been making compost ever since we became ‘wealthy’ with the perfect organic farm wastes.  Goat manure, a rich mixture of straw bedding, waste hay, urine and goat poop, has the perfect amount of carbon and nitrogen for composting.  We just pile into windrows (long rows about ten feet wide and six feet tall), turn it every now and then (probably, we should be turning it more frequently than we do) and it transforms itself into black gold. We’ve been using it to build our vegetable beds for several years. 

Our windrow has been growing steadily over the past several years, as the number of goats generating all that perfect organic waste has increased. The windrow had stretched all the way from the end of the doe barn to the far north corner of our orchard.  At several points, it was so tall and so close to the pasture alley way, that the goats managed to scale over the pile and into the orchard, gorging themselves on apple and peach leaves.

 We had purchased a small manure spreader to spread the finished compost, but its toy-like size (and toy-like gears) could not handle the load, and it broke in short order. It’s been sitting idle along with other farm implements in the part of all farms where unused farm implements end up (kind of like those rural homesteads with lots of old cars strewn about).  And so the compost pile grew and grew; until this past Sunday.

Our very generous hearted organic grain farmer friend (Allen Williams) came to the farm with his very large compost spreader and loader (his wife drove the loader all the way from Cerro Gordo) to spread the wealth or decomposed organic matter on our pastures fields and our new incubator farm’s vegetable ground.  It was a sight to behold: all that black richness flying into the air and landing on the barren lifeless ground.  The next stage is tillage: our grain farming  neighbors will come with their large tillage equipment when the soil conditions are right (not too wet, not too frozen) and blend the compost into the soil.  Then, we will replant our pastures with a diverse array of grasses, legumes and forbs.  The girls will be in for a pasture bar (aka grazing salad bar) extravaganza this spring and summer (if we get good rains). 

spreading compost big time

 

On the kidding front, we’re in the home stretch of kidding season; our farm’s version of “March madness.” We now have almost 100 kids on the ground, all of them healthy.  There are less than a dozen older does left to kid, and then we wait until mid-April to mid-May for the yearlings to have their babies. It’s about this time into the kidding season that the signs of sleep deprivation take their toll on me. The adrenaline is starting to wane from my system.  I have trouble remembering my tasks at hand (even though I have lots of check lists in place); I spend way too much time staring at the kids in the kid barn, worrying whether they have enough to eat, if their bedding’s too wet, if they’re going to electrocute themselves when they chew on the electrical cords to their heat lamps.  I know it is finite. This keeps me going.

Saturday Open House-Farm Breakfasts

This Saturday, March 29th,(9 AM to 12 noon) March is going out like lion (even though it came in like a lion too) so, we’re preparing a set of breakfast foods fit for any king of the savanah.  We’ll have:

  • Jalapeno Jelly and Moonglo cheese Scones
  • Sour cherry coffee cake
  • Blue Moon Farm Carrot Muffins
  • Very limited quantities of Chef Alisa’s mini Quince-Goat Cheese Cakes
  • Goat milk salted caramels
  • Old Heritage Creamery 100% Grass-fed Cow Yogurt Smoothies (these are super delicious if you haven’t tried them)
  • Goat milk hot chocolate, Fair Trade Herriott’s Coffee and Hot Tea

The Cracked Truck will be here too with their delicious breakfast fare, along with a special breakfast sandwich made with Prairie Fruits Farm chevre. As always, NO RESERVATIONS ARE REQUIRED. 

OUR NEW ORDERING SYSTEM HAS ALL BUT ELIMINATED THE LONG LINES OF YEARS’ PAST, SO COME OUT AND ENJOY SOME SPRING LOCAL FOODS ON THE FARM! You can even eat your breakfast on our new farm tables made by Laurence Mate!

new farm tables

Want to do some shopping for fresh local foods? You can get here at the farm: We’ll have:

  • More of our bright and creamy fresh chevre (plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper)
  • Sheep Milk Feta (better get it while it lasts)
  • Moonglo (if you like Manchego, you’ll like this cheese)
  • Eldon: Sheep milk blue—a crumbly blue that melts in your mouth

Don't forget our goat t-shirts and goat milk soap too.

Stewart's Artisan Breads will be here with bagels, breads, cookies, granola and biscotti.

 Tomahnous Farm will have some early spring greens, potted herbs, carrots and maybe a few other root vegetables.  It should be a glorious day for a farm visit. Of course the goats and their babies will be here to dazzle you.  They are show stoppers.

Posted 3/20/2014 10:13pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

Farm News

The rising count of kids

Each year’s kidding season has a certain theme to it; a certain pattern that emerges slowly as the does give birth. Last year’s theme was fast and furious (most of our does kidded in about two weeks; most of them had triplets and many had two kids trying to exit the birth canal at the same time). This year’s season has been slow to start, with winter clinging to the barren cold ground outside the doe barn. We’re starting to pick up steam now, with 60 kids on the ground and about one third of the does having given birth.  I’m noticing a few emerging patterns: fewer triplets and most of our does kidding with little drama and no warning. 

Our calculated “due dates” are pretty much worthless (except for model does like Boots who kidded on her due date with triplets!!), and the does we’re sure are about to explode at any minute continue to grow larger and more lethargic by the day.  Our birth weights are in the lower to moderate range too (4-6 lbs.), rather than the behemoths we’ve had in the past.  I’m beginning to wonder if the stress of such an extremely cold winter took its toll on our does and their gestating babies, resulting in fewer multiples and slightly smaller kids.  Of course, there are the exceptions: Claudette had a singleton buck this afternoon weighing in at 10.5 pounds!  He is serious linebacker material.  My gut feelings may change radically in the coming weeks as some of larger, “heavy hitter” (that’s in the milk department) does have their babies.  Time will tell.

Saturday Spring Open House—March 22nd 9AM to 12 noon

With the number of does back on the milk line rising, we’ve been able to make a couple of batches of fresh chevre this week.  The first chevre of the season has a distinct lemony flavor, and our first batches have that zest.  We’ll be offering our chevre for sale this week along with our aged cheeses: feta, Moonglo and sheep milk Blue (Eldon).  Looking for the perfect accompaniment to our aged cheeses? Our chef Alisa made some beautiful tart quince paste last fall (membrillo), and we’ll be offering that alongside our cheeses. We’ll also be selling some goats’ milk salted caramels that chef Alisa made this week (they are irresistible—I really have to keep myself out of the kitchen when she’s making them). 

Our guest farmers include:

Blue Moon Farm with spinach, kale, chard, cilantro, parsley, carrots, and potatoes and small amounts of salad mix

Tomahnous Farm will have  fresh herbs (oregano, rosemary, chives), carrots, potatoes, garlic, herb plants

Stewart’s Artisan Breads will have hearty loaves, bagels, granola, cookies and biscotti

Our Breakfast Menu is a real crowd pleaser:

  • Sarah's Sticky Buns with Maple and Walnuts
  • Dried Tomato and Feta Biscuits
  • Bagels with Honeyed Chevre
  • PFF Cheese Plate with House-made crackers and membrillo
  • Goat's Milk Hot Chocolate
  • Columbia Street Coffee
  • Hot Tea  

We’re also welcoming the Cracked Truck to our Farm this Saturday. They’ll be serving up their usual hot breakfast fare. Should be loads of fun.

Of course, you can peruse our other farm items, including our t-shirts with our new logo, pick up some goat milk soap or purchase a copy of the WILL-TV documentary film DVD “Course Work”—about the making of a farm dinner at Prairie Fruits Farm.  

The baby goats will melt your hearts and you might even witness a birth or two (it happened last Saturday). The weather should be fine for a farm outing, so please come out and see us this Saturday.  Our new serving system has completely eliminated lines waiting for food!!! It’s miraculous. 

These crazy climbing Nigerian Dwarf goats--their pregnancies sure aren't slowing them down!
Climbing goats