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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

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

Farm News

It’s been hard to awake from the slumber of this long, cold, lonely winter (not really so lonely, but it’s part of the song “here comes the sun” by the beatles).  The never-ending cold pervaded my psyche, leaving me feeling like my internal organs and muscles were in a semi-frozen, slushy state.  I tried to fight it.  I cross country skied, I took the dog for walks in the snow (he loves the snow—he’s immune to cold), I soaked in the hot tub and I cooked lots of soups and stews.   Despite winter being our “down time,” we did lots of planning over the winter. We’re making lots of changes here at Prairie Fruits Farm. Starting with our name, we’re now officially “Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery.” We’ve changed our logo too. Maybe you’ve seen it on our Facebook Page. It’s now in the header of our website.  The logo embodies the capricious and mischievous nature of our goats and the ties that bind our dairy to our orchard.  We have named the featured goat “Chippy,” in honor of herd matron Chippewa. 

The goats have been reluctant to emerge from their own winter rest.  They’ve been gorging on lots of good grass and alfalfa hay to keep their rumens active, and the growing bedded pack of composting straw under their bellies generated some heat to take the extreme edge off.  Nonetheless, some mornings, Wes ventured out to the barn to find Jemimah, the donkey, covered in white veneer of frost.  We had a few does kid in February (result of the midnight trysts with Rex, Harry and Nate), but our kidding season really isn’t in full swing yet.  This week’s snows and cold must has sent a clear message to keep those kids buttoned up a bit longer, but today we started to see some push toward spring with three does kidding.  No signs of life from the ground yet, but I imagine they can’t be far behind.

First Farm Breakfast and Open House of the Season

If spring won’t come naturally on its own, we’re forcing the issue with our first spring open house this Saturday, March 15th.  From 9AM to 12 noon, you can come out to the farm to see the baby goats, visit with the very pregnant mama goats, have a “continental” style local foods breakfast and buy some cheese and bread.  NO RESERVATIONS REQUIRED—JUST COME ON OUT! There’s plenty of parking and we have able-bodied men helping you find a parking spot when you arrive. We’ve streamlined our breakfast menu this year, so folks don’t have to wait in line so long.  You can spend more time visiting with the goats.

Here’s the breakfast lineup:

  • Blueberry Scones
  • Cinnamon Rolls
  • Toasted Bagel with Oven-Dried Juliet Tomato-Feta Spread
  • Ploughman's Plate: Prairie Fruits Farm Pork Sausage, Moonglo Cheese, Cornmeal Biscuit, Hard Boiled Farm Egg, Pickles, Quince Jam and Mustard
  • Old Heritage Creamery Drinkable Fruit Yogurt
  • Goat's Milk Hot Chocolate
  • Columbia Street Roastery Single-Origin Coffee
  • Hot Tea

In addition to our breakfasts, I’ll be on hand to sell some cheese:

  • some really exquisite sheep milk feta (it’s been aging for several months, and man, does it taste good)
  • Eldon—the last of our sheep milk blue cheese—sweet, crumbly blue—perfect for wilted spinach salad
  • Moonglo—our late fall batches of this raw milk tomme are ready—slightly sharp, good for slicing or grating.

I know you are all eagerly awaiting the first chevre of the season. Because our girls have been so slow to kid, we didn’t have enough milk to make BOTH cheese and goat milk hot chocolate. The hot chocolate won this week, but the chevre will make its seasonal debut next Saturday. 

Stewart’s Artisan Breads will be here with bagels, breads, cookies and granola. The bagels and breads are a perfect accompaniment to our cheeses.

We'll also be selling some of our swanky goat t-shirts, our goat milk soaps AND DVDs of the WILL-TV documentary about our farm dinners "Course Work."  

Let us be a part of your spring awaken ritual this Saturday. Come visit us.

 

Posted 3/4/2014 9:48pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

I'll be brief.  Tomorrow (Wednesday, March 5th) at midnight is the deadline to sign up for our cheese, bread and gelato CSA AND receive the 10% discount off our retail prices.  If you've been considering becoming a member of our unique CSA, please sign up now.

Believe it or not, there are still seats open to a couple of our first five farm dinners.  You can find the descriptions and how to make reservations under the "2014 Dinner Season" part of our website.  

Our production season is about to explode. Spring will come.  Let's force some spring--think goat cheese and farm dinners.

 

 

Posted 2/24/2014 9:24pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

Greetings Everyone:

The grip of old man winter is still upon us, but we're trying to shake it off with lots of planning for spring.  While the snow and ice have blanketed much of our region, we've been busy planning our 2014 "Dinners on the Farm" season.  We're putting the finishing touches on themes and guest chefs, and the first round of dinner ticket sales for the first five dinner dates will go on sale on Saturday, March 1st at 1:00 pm.  We'll have the descriptions posted on our website by Wednesday, February 26th, so you have time to review them and decide which ones you might like to attend BEFORE tickets go on sale.  Since the ticket sales happen through ShowClix, I highly recommend you review the purchasing process BEFORE March 1st, so you're familiar with how it all works.  

To get more information about the dinners overall and to access the descriptions, go to Dinners on the Farm.  To book the reservation, please visit our ShowClix page

Bread Cheese and Gelato CSA

We're fast approaching the early bird deadline for sign up for our CSA. We provide the cheeses and gelato; Stewart's Artisan Breads provides the bagels and bread.

If you close to Bloomington-Normal OR Champaign-Urbana, you can lock in seasonal bi-weekly pickups of cheese, bread and/or goat milk gelato at 10% off the price at farmers' markets or on-farm sales.  But wait, there's more! CSA members can also sign up for an exclusive farm dinner at a price close to 50% lower than our current ticket price.  The deadline for sign up with this discount is Wednesday, March 5th at midnight.  It's a great way to support the farm and guarantee a great selection of cheeses, breads and our delicious goat milk gelato.  To get more details and to sign up, visit our website.

 

Posted 1/6/2014 2:50pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

Happy New Year! 

With the winds howling outside blowing the snow into impassible drifts, we're pretty much house bound today.  We're keeping the goats safe and well fed, but the record low temperatures are presenting all kinds of challenges for our farm this winter.  

Since many of you in the midwest are also likely house bound, I wanted to let you know that the IndieGoGo campaign for the the documentary film about our farm "A Farmers' Road" is in it's final 12 hours.  If you haven't made a donation yet, NOW is the time.  John Murray, the documentary film maker, has been toiling away at finding a professional editor for the film. Please help him reach his goal of $25,000 by midnight tonight! 

The Food Network has pegged the Midwest as THE HOT place for local foods in 2014. Our farm is poised to showcase the bounty of the Midwest's local food agriculture. The film "A Farmers' Road" will help tell the story of our farm and Midwestern farms like ours  who are striving to build a more sustainable and vibrant local food system. Don't you want to be a part of telling this story?

Go to the IndieGoGo website NOW and please make a donation: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/a-farmer-s-road

Any amount is appreciated greatly. Thank you!

Posted 12/19/2013 10:34pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

Farm News

We pulled the plug on milking this week, a week earlier than our tradition of milking until Christmas Eve. Most of the does were beyond ready; they had been on a slow path to powering down since we went to once a day milking in early November.  In thinking about this expression “pulling the plug,” the implication is that the electricity (or in our case milk), stops flowing when the connection is lost; the power goes out. When we stop milking, we shut off the hormones that lactating mammals secrete to keep the milk flowing; another image analogous to lost electrical currents and negative feedback loops.  Not being a lover of physics, I am always impressed when biology imitates physics. 

With dry off comes a drastic change in the quality of their hay; high-protein alfalfa is replaced by high-roughage grass hay.  During the first few days of grass, their cacophonous protests are deafening. As hunger sets in, they resign themselves to their winter grassy chow.  Little do they know that all that roughage makes their rumens work overtime, generating heat and helping to keep their bodies warm during this bitter cold time of year.  This morning, I went out to give them a few evergreen boughs to help ease their diet pains (they LOVE pine and spruce boughs—don’t know why, but they love them almost as much as fruit tree leaves)—leftover table decorations from the last farm dinner.  The sound of many goat heads swishing through the grass hay to get to the evergreen boughs warmed my little motherly heart (l love to listen to them eat with gusto). 

Just as quickly as the snows piled up on our farm, they have melted away with the recent rise in temperature.  With the ground now frozen, all that is left are puddles of icy water.  Blue the dog, lover of snow, has located many sticks and large branches that were buried by snow.  I guess I have no excuses now when he comes begging, branch in mouth, to play fetch.  He never gets tired.

Farmers’ Markets and Holiday Schedules

We’re gearing up for a big weekend of holiday farmers’ markets:  Urbana’s Holiday Market inside Lincoln Square Mall and Chicago’s Green City Market inside the Notebaert Nature Museum. Both will be held this Saturday, December 21st , from 8AM to 1PM.  Wes will be attending to our Champaign Urbana patrons, while I’ll venture north to cater to our Chicago fans.  This is your final chance to stock up on our cheeses before we go into winter hiatus.  If you’re in need of advice for a holiday cheese board, just ask us.  What are we bringing?

  • Fresh chevre: plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper
  • Angel Food Brie: the last of the season and boy , is it dense and rich—perfect for the holiday table
  • Sheep milk feta—as I have been telling you, this cheese is worthy of a fancy holiday cheese board, hands down
  • Ichabod—the last few pieces of our pumpkin-ale washed rind sheep milk cheese—don’t be intimidated by its aroma; it loaded with complex flavors
  • Moonglo—the last pieces of the early summer batches are in coolers—they’re yours for the taking
  • Roxanne—perfect for melting on roasted potatoes
  • Eldon—sheep milk blue; a wonderful winter cheese for a winter salad of roasted beets and curly endive (I would throw in some toasted walnuts too)

Yes, there’s still a little gelato left and you really need to buy some to keep your sweet tooth satisfied over the winter. For Urbana:

  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Hazelnut
  • Pumpkin
  • Apple Sorbetto

For Chicago:

  • Pumpkin
  • Honey Lavender
  • Honey Chevre (very limited quantities)
  • Cider Sorbetto

Looking for some last minute non-food gifts?  Why not give them some of our gorgeous goat milk soaps or a stylish Prairie Fruits Farm Goat T—shirt or Hooded Sweat Shirt? Why not gift these to yourself??

If you can’t make it to the markets, this Saturday, we can still ship t-shirts and soap gift boxes out on Monday, the 23rd.  Check these out on our website. ALSO, if you’re still searching for a really unique gift for a special someone, we still have Farm Dinner Presale tickets available for a number of dates in the 2014 Season. Check it out!

Lastly, I would like to wish all of our patrons a restful and peaceful holiday season. We have valued your support over the years and we thank you.  May you all enjoy a delicious winter filled with as much local food as you can find.  HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO ALL.

winter wonderland at the farm

Prairie Fruits Farm winter wonderland!