News

Welcome to Leslie's Blog.
Posted 8/19/2013 8:12pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

Hello CSA members:

It is time again for another allotment of bread, cheese and gelato. Here is the schedule for pickups this week:

  • Peoria, Tuesday, August 20th: Marcella Teplitz house from 5 to 6PM
  • Normal (1st Presbyterian Church): Tuesday, August 20th, from 4:30 to 5:30PM
  • Bloomington (Unitarian Church): Tuesday, August 20th from 6 to 7PM
  • Wednesday, August 21st: Springfield (Farmers' Market at Katic Bread farm stand): 8AM to 11AM
  • Wednesday, August 21st, Prairie Fruits Farm: 4 to 6PM
  • Friday, August 23rd, Naperville Tennis Club: 3:30 to 5:30PM


If you are not able to pick up your shares, please have a friend or family member pick them up for you.  If that is the case, please let me know and send me their name, phone number and email address.  

Just a reminder for those of you who signed up for the CSA farm dinner and want to purchase an additional seat, please send me (Leslie) a check for $45 to reserve the extra seat. The date for the dinner is Sunday October 13th from 3 to 6PM.  The deadline for purchasing an additional seat is September 15th, so don't delay if you would like one.

Also, this is a reminder that we have another pickup the week of August 27th. This additional date ensures you receive your 14 pickups for this CSA.  Please put this date on your calendar.

Thank you. 

leslie & Carissa




Posted 8/15/2013 9:13pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

Farm News

If you want to get a snapshot of middle america’s humanity, you must go to the state fair.  Wes and I played hooky on Tuesday afternoon, and headed over to Springfield.  We were there to receive an award from the state’s Comptroller’s Office for “leadership in agri-tourism,” but it was a great excuse to just have some good old fashioned fun. 

Wes Les award
As we walked from the parking lot to the fair entrance, we encountered the many shapes, sizes, attire and tattoos that embody the diversity of the heartland. The sight of the midway rides made my stomach queasy, as I am not one to relish gravity defiance.  I do get a vicarious enjoyment from watching other people turned upside down, screaming with the joy of terror.  The endless rows of food stands hawking fried pickles, fried oreos, curly fries with cheese and of the ever-popular alligator on a stick were enticing and repellent at the same time.  I stuck to Mexican corn and grilled corn on the cob, while Wes enjoyed his corn dog.  The women who sold us the Mexican corn even sang us their little song about why their corn is the best.  It was cheesy and spicy—delish!  I would have to say, though, that the best thing I ate that day was a quarter watermelon from southern Illinois we found in the Illinois Local Foods product tent. 

Once the charm of the food began to wear off, we wandered over to the livestock barns—first the sheep barn where some serious shearing was underway and the newly-shorn, perfectly-white sheep were draped in hooded jackets that had a frightening resemblance to the KKK outfits. Then, it was over to the goat barn (of course) to see some of our own progeny resting after a day in the show ring.  They were clipped and groomed, looking their finest. We even saw “Queen” (her full name is “Queen of the Nile”), one of our first three does—now a toothsome ten-year old.  She took first place in her age class!  We also learned that the fair’s goat show is doe only, because they don’t want stinky bucks to give dairy goats a bad image (it’s amazing what you discover at the fair).  We then moved on to find the poultry barn, because I can’t go to fair and NOT see all those crazy lookin’ chickens and rabbits (yes, rabbits are lumped in with poultry—don’t ask me why).  The poultry barn is located in the hinterlands of the fairgrounds and only the highly dedicated make it over there. Indeed, we were the only ones in there, and half of the chickens were gone already and sadly, no rabbits were present.  The feather-footed and naked-necked roosters were crowing in competition, from tiny little banty birds to gigantic poultry who looked like a cross between a chicken and a turkey (their crow even sounded like a hybrid).  The emptiness of the room made their cacophony more deafening. From there, we were off to watch the hog auction—Hampshire boars were on the auction floor—quite a spectacle—both of the boars and of the people bidding on them--one of them (the hog, that is) went for over $10,000!!!

We closed the evening watching the Clydesdale horse parade and weaving our way in and out of the cow dairy barns. I marveled at the eye lashes of the Jersey, Ayrshire and Short-Horned cows (I forgot how big they are compared with goats), their impressive dairy frames and their respectively voluminous udders.  A little Ayrshire heifer caught my eye and it was love at first sight.  There’s something about dairy farm families that comforts me.  As we strolled the barn aisles, some were milking out their girls with portable milking machines. Others were setting up tables piled high with dinner foods for all to enjoy.  The adults had campers parked next to the barns, while their kids had lawn chairs and air mattresses set up in the stalls next to their animals.  Someone should do a study of the families who show hogs versus goats versus dairy cattle.  I think this would be fascinating.   

Farm Dinners-Something Special: We’ve got a special private dinner tonight, and I couldn’t resist sharing a photo with you of the beautiful table set with flowers from our garden. Our unseasonably cool weather makes for a perfect evening of outdoor dining.  Speaking of farm dinners, we will be hosting two fundraiser dinners at our farm this fall: one for WILL Illinois Public Media (http://will.illinois.edu/farmtotable) on September 15th and one for the Eastern Illinois Food Bank on October 6th. I’ll be sending out a special email next week with all the details about these events, so stay tuned.


dinner table

Farmers’ Markets

Once again, it’s an Urbana Market weekend only this Saturday. There is NO Green City Market this Saturday, due to the Chicago Air Show.  We will have cheese and plenty of it:

  • Fresh chevre
  • Sheep milk Feta
  • Luscious bloomy rind cheeses: little bloom on the prairie, Angel Food (it’s back!), black goat and black sheep
  • Two very blue cheeses: Huckleberry Blue (goat) and Eldon (sheep)
  • Moonglo (spring milk incarnate)
  • Roxanne (sheep milk buttery-ness)

Gelato anyone? How about:

  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Hazelnut
  • Lemon Verbena
  • Nectarine Sorbetto
  • Sweet Corn
  • Stracciatella
  • Mint
  • Thai Basil
  • Ginger

We might even bring some of our organic peaches to the market.  They’re small, but they’re packed with flavor.  

Posted 8/13/2013 9:25pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.


Greetings:

Here's the latest update for tomorrow's farm open house and on farm sales from 4 to 6 PM.

Our crop of peaches and blackberries continues to ripen in the warm summer sun, so we'll be offering U-pick again during our open house hours. We'll also be picking some peaches to sell as well as some of our heirloom tomatoes, kale and chard and even a few green and yellow wax beans. 

Of course, there'll be plenty of cheese including fresh chevre, bloomy rind cheeses, feta, blue cheese and Roxanne and Moonglo.  

For gelato, we'll be offering both pints and scoops (*) of:

  • Vanilla*
  • Chocolate*
  • Hazelnut
  • Lemon Verbena*
  • Nectarine Sorbetto*
  • Sweet Corn
  • Stracciatella*
  • Mint
  • Thai Basil
  • Ginger

Thirsty anyone?  We'll be offering unique sodas from the Homer Soda Company.  We'll have several styles of fruit sodas, rootbeers, ginger ales and even old fashioned sarsparilla and birch beer. If you haven't tried these sodas, you must!  

Our regular farmer friends will be here too:

Tomahnous Farm with freshly picked organic veggies and a few berries and potted plants

Lucky Duck Farm with pastured chicken and duck eggs, ground beef, ham steaks and yarn

Stewart's Artisan Breads with bagels, breads, cookies and granola

With only a few weeks left in August, it's the perfect time to come out and visit the farm and get the best locally grown food around! The goats are waiting for you.

Posted 8/8/2013 6:55pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.


Farm News

Last week I left the farm and headed north to America’s Dairyland; aka Wisconsin, to immerse myself in all things cheese.  Living in the dairy desert that is central Illinois, I feel compelled to attend the American Cheese Society’s annual conference periodically so that I can be surrounded by fellow cheese makers and mongers.  Like the wildebeest of the Serengeti Plains, we trickle in from distant parts of North America and converge upon a city (it was Madison this year, the 30th Anniversary of the founding of the American Cheese Society) to gorge ourselves on the latest science, art, passion and business that has become artisan cheese in North America.  There’s plenty of gorging on cheese too, don’t you worry—cheese for breakfast, cheese for lunch, receptions with cheese, cheese pairings with wine, beer, chocolate and pickles anyone?  We humans have a strong desire to commune with those who share our worries and our passions; the camaraderie consoles us that we are not alone and that we’re probably doing alright.  Of course, the new knowledge acquired and the sharing are like blood transfusions, reinvigorating the passions that tend to get smothered from the quotidian grind of running a farm and trying to make a living. 


beautiful tomatoes

Tomato anxiety

Each summer, I experience a progression of feelings about tomatoes.  First, there’s the feeling of anticipation as I watch flowers turn into green fruits and begin to blush with color. Then, there’s the excitement of finding the first red ripe tomato, plucking it from the vine and biting into it right there in the garden. Then, there’s the joy of slicing the first few tomatoes and arranging them beautifully on a platter, drizzling them with good olive oil and sprinkling them with sea salt.  I savor the aesthetic of the plate and rich salty tomato-ness of those early beauties.  I cut around the imperfections because every tomato is precious and worth eating. As the days progress, I start seeing boxes of harvested tomatoes appear on our hearth; first a couple, then a half dozen.  All of a sudden, I am transformed into the stage known as “tomato anxiety.”  This is the feeling of being overwhelmed by the number of tomatoes that need to be not only eaten, but processed.  I sort through the now rotting tomatoes (throwing them away is now cathartic, I don’t try to cut out the bad parts), organize good tomato piles into those we should dry, those we should can, those we should freeze.  My dreams of canning them all fall away, as I assess the hard cold reality of numbers and start shoving them into freezer bags. Freezing buys me time; I can turn them into sauce during the winter when time is on my side.

Support WILL Media, our local public radio and TV station: come to special fundraiser farm dinner

We at Prairie Fruits Farm believe strongly in giving to our community, especially since our community gives so much to us.  Moreover, we believe in the power of independent and public media and embrace its role in fostering dialogue and civic engagement in our community. So, what better way to show our support than to host a fundraiser dinner for WILL-Media (also known as Illinois Public Media or IPM)? The dinner will be held on Sunday September 15th at 3:00PM. Guests will enjoy a Midwestern-style hog roast with whey-fed (and fruit fed too) pork raised right on the farm, side dishes made with local vegetables and grains, a PFF cheese course served with house made preserves, and dessert showcasing fruit from the farm's orchard - PLUS homemade goat milk gelato.  

Guests will also receive a tour of the farm, with ample time to stroll the gardens and orchards on their own. They will also have the opportunity to purchase cheese and gelato to take home.

 Tickets to this IPM fundraising event are $250 per person (with a fair market value of $85). This special dinner is limited to 45 seats so don’t delay. To purchase tickets, go to their website.

For more information, or for assistance in purchasing your ticket to this special event, please call (217) 333-7300.

And that's not all...

This dinner will be filmed as part of a special documentary produced by WILL-TV. The special will air in December 2013, and will focus on Prairie Fruits Farm and the farm-to-table movement in central Illinois.*

Farmers’ Market Update

We’re attending one market this Saturday August 10th: Urbana’s Market at the Square.  Our longer aged cheeses are in full swing, so be sure to check them out at the market and take home at least two types.  We’ve got:

  • Fresh chevre: plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper
  • Sheep milk feta: perfect for a summer salad
  • Bloomy rinds with gorgeous rinds: Little Bloom on the Prairie, Black Goat, Black Sheep and Ewe Bloom—just eat them and enjoy their gooeyness
  • Moonglo: with a tang that will make you yodel, you’ll want to serve with some local honey or pear butter
  • Roxanne: grassy and buttery—a flavor combo that is hard to beat
  • Eldon: our spicy blue-veined sheep milk cheese—a blue cheese lover’s delight
  • Huckleberry Blue: our sweet blue goat milk cheese-the pear brandy soaked sycamore leaves seal the deal

For gelato, we can’t help ourselves with all the great fruits, herbs etc. in season:

  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Hazelnut
  • Mint  Stracciatella
  • Blackberry Cream
  • Margot’s Mint
  • Sweet Corn
  • Lemon Verbena
  • Thai Basil
  • Nectarine Sorbetto

In addition to our cheeses and gelato, we’ll probably be bringing some of our organic fruits to the market: pears, blackberries and maybe some peaches. 

A special note to our patrons in Chicago: There will be NO Green City Market on Saturday, August 17th due to the Air Show.  So, we won’t be back to Green City Market until Saturday, August 31st. If you get hungry for our cheese and gelato, you might just have to drive down to Champaign Urbana. We’ll sell you some fruit too if you come.  

 



Posted 8/6/2013 9:58pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.


Greetings Local Food Enthusiasts:

Tomorrow's Farm Open House from 4 to 6 PM holds a cornucopia of summer local foods.  We'll have plenty of cheese:

  • Fresh chevre
  • Feta
  • Bloomy rind goat and sheep milk cheeses
  • Roxanne
  • Moonglo
  • Blue cheese two ways: Huckleberry Blue (goat milk) and Eldon (sheep milk)

Gelato (flavors with an asterisk will be available as scoops and pints; others are pints only):

  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Hazelnut
  • Mint*
  • Ginger (this is a ginger lover's ginger)*
  • Blackberry Cream
  • Lemon Verbena*
  • Sweet Corn* (yes, it's really good!)
  • Mint Stracciatella
  • Peach sorbetto*
  • Nectarine sorbetto*

If you want fruit, we'll have both blackberries and peaches available for u-pick. Blackberries are $3 per pint and $5 per quart; peaches are $1.50 per pound.  We have our sweet and juicy bartlett variety of pears (called "Harvest Queen") that we picked today. They will be $4/quart.

Our farmer friends will be here too: 

Tomahnous Farm with veggies, flowers and a few berries and potted plants

Lucky Duck Farm with eggs, ham steaks and Icelandic sheep wool yarn

Stewart's Artisan Breads with bagels, breads, cookies and granola

Laurence Mate, the knife dude, will be sharpening while you shop and visit the farm.  He will be gone for the next two weeks in August (back the last week in August), so if you've been holding off getting your knives sharpened, don't delay.  

The weather should be fine, so come on out.

Posted 8/5/2013 3:51pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

Hello CSA members:

Once again, it is time for another allotment of bread, cheese and gelato. Here is the schedule for pickups this week:

  • Peoria, Tuesday, August 6th: Marcella Teplitz house from 5 to 6PM
  • Normal (1st Presbyterian Church): Tuesday, August 6th, from 4:30 to 5:30PM
  • Bloomington (Unitarian Church): Tuesday, August 6th from 6 to 7PM
  • Wednesday, August 7th: Springfield (Farmers' Market at Katic Bread farm stand): 8AM to 11AM
  • Wednesday, August 7th, Prairie Fruits Farm: 4 to 6PM
  • Friday, August 9th, Naperville Tennis Club: 3:30 to 5:30PM


If you are not able to pick up your shares, please have a friend or family member pick them up for you.  If that is the case, please let me know and send me their name, phone number and email address.  

Just a reminder for those of you who signed up for the CSA farm dinner and want to purchase an additional seat, please send me (Leslie) a check for $45 to reserve the extra seat. The date for the dinner is Sunday October 13th from 3 to 6PM.  The deadline for purchasing an additional seat is September 15th, so don't delay if you would like one.

Also, this is a reminder that we have three pick up dates in August--this week, the week of August 20th and the week of August 27th. This additional date ensures you receive your 14 pickups for this CSA.  Please put these dates on your calendar.


Thank you. I hope your summer continues to go well, and you're enjoying your shares of cheese, bread and gelato.


leslie & Carissa




Posted 8/1/2013 4:28pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

Farm News

Fruit Heaven: Tuesday early evening, I wandered out to the orchard to get a handle on the fruit situation for our u-pick. The air was still, the clouds low hanging with a light drizzle.  The scene of peach branches arching downward toward the ground, laden with ripening peaches, caught me a bit off guard.  Slowly it sank in that this was the most prolific crop of fruit we have ever seen on our farm.  Many of the branches of Red Havens and Reliance peaches are so thick with fruit you can barely see the leaves underneath them. I picked up a few windfalls (these are the fruit that have fallen to the ground that are “dead ripe”) and sank my teeth into one. The juice splattered all over my lips and dripped down my chin.  The intensity of flavor is nearly indescribable—floral, tart, sweet.  I was transported to peach nirvana. For me and for Wes, there is no better fruit than a dead ripe peach; the attainment of this fruit “holy grail” was one of the main reasons that we bought our little farm and decided to attempt organic fruit in the Midwest.  We are so happy we get to share this experience with our customers. Once you’ve eaten a dead ripe peach, you won’t be able to go back over to the grocery store dark side.


peaches breakin' down

Goats getting frisky: The unseasonably cool weather we’ve been having this week is sending mixed signals to our goats. The bucks have started spraying themselves with their goaty musk. They’re engaging in mock mating rituals (poor wethers) too.  They curl their lips to catch any scent of does in heat, and the does approach them at the fence in the pasture.  Thankfully, the fence is strong, stronger than their desire to get a head start on mating season.  I have no desire for December kids. 

As we leave July behind and enter into August, I often get lulled into a false sense of calm about the farm.  Everything’s in motion, we’re not starting any new “projects,” we’re in maintenance mode.  Perhaps I’ve become habituated to the routine, perhaps the long-term, low-level of sleep deprivation clouds my vision, but as look around the garden and at our growing and gorgeous goat kids, my usual anxieties are diminished.  I’ll take it for now.


beautiful doelings

Farmers’ Markets, On Farm Sale Updates, Etc.

We’re attending two farmers’ markets this Saturday: Urbana and Green City Market.  I’ll be in Madison Wisconsin attending the American Cheese Society conference, so Wes and Stewart will be manning the stand in Urbana. Andrew will be serving up tastes of cheese at Green City Market. We’ve got the full line up of aged cheeses this week along with the usual suspects:

  • Fresh Chevre: plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper
  • Sheep Milk Feta
  • Bloomy rind cheeses including Little Bloom on the Prairie, Angel Food, Ewe Bloom and maybe Black Sheep
  • Roxanne
  • Moonglo—the first spring batch is ready!
  • Huckleberry Blue
  • Eldon—our spicy sheep milk blue

The gelato flavors reflect summer (a selection of the local flavors will be sent to Chicago's Green City Market)

  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Hazelnut
  • Mint Stracciatella
  • Strawberry
  • Lemon Balm-Thyme
  • Thai Basil
  • Ginger Ricotta
  • Blackberry Cream
  • Peach Sorbetto
  • Nectarine Sorbetto
  • Cucumber Lime Mint Sorbetto

Come out to the farmers’ markets and stock up on these goodies. You’ve gotta buy something else besides tomatoes and sweet corn, right?

On Farm Sales will continue through the end of August—Wednesdays from 4 to 6PM.  We should have peaches and blackberries available for u-pick during those hours for at least another three weeks. Our pear and apple crops are looking abundant as well, so stay tuned for u-pick opportunities for those fruits as well. 

Reminder: The tickets for the last four farm dinners will go on sale at 5PM on Saturday August 3rd.  To view the descriptions of the fall dinners and then go to our Show Clix page to purchase them, go to the section of our website called "Dinners on the Farm, then click on "2013 Dinner Season." I highly recommend checking out how ShowClix works before August 5th at 5PM so you are familiar with how it all works.  

Posted 7/31/2013 1:57pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

Farm News

Fruit Heaven: Tuesday early evening, I wandered out to the orchard to get a handle on the fruit situation for our u-pick. The air was still, the clouds low hanging with a light drizzle.  The scene of peach branches arching downward toward the ground, laden with ripening peaches, caught me a bit off guard.  Slowly it sank in that this was the most prolific crop of fruit we have ever seen on our farm.  Many of the branches of Red Havens and Reliance peaches are so thick with fruit you can barely see the leaves underneath them. I picked up a few windfalls (these are the fruit that have fallen to the ground that are “dead ripe”) and sank my teeth into one. The juice splattered all over my lips and dripped down my chin.  The intensity of flavor is nearly indescribable—floral, tart, sweet.  I was transported to peach nirvana. For me and for Wes, there is no better fruit than a dead ripe peach; the attainment of this fruit “holy grail” was one of the main reasons that we bought our little farm and decided to attempt organic fruit in the Midwest.  We are so happy we get to share this experience with our customers. Once you’ve eaten a dead ripe peach, you won’t be able to go back over to the grocery store dark side.


peaches breakin' down

Goats getting frisky: The unseasonably cool weather we’ve been having this week is sending mixed signals to our goats. The bucks have started spraying themselves with their goaty musk. They’re engaging in mock mating rituals (poor wethers) too.  They curl their lips to catch any scent of does in heat, and the does approach them at the fence in the pasture.  Thankfully, the fence is strong, stronger than their desire to get a head start on mating season.  I have no desire for December kids. 

As we leave July behind and enter into August, I often get lulled into a false sense of calm about the farm.  Everything’s in motion, we’re not starting any new “projects,” we’re in maintenance mode.  Perhaps I’ve become habituated to the routine, perhaps the long-term, low-level of sleep deprivation clouds my vision, but as look around the garden and at our growing and gorgeous goat kids, my usual anxieties are diminished.  I’ll take it for now.


beautiful doelings

Farmers’ Markets, On Farm Sale Updates, Etc.

We’re attending two farmers’ markets this Saturday: Urbana and Green City Market.  I’ll be in Madison Wisconsin attending the American Cheese Society conference, so Wes and Stewart will be manning the stand in Urbana. Andrew will be serving up tastes of cheese at Green City Market. We’ve got the full line up of aged cheeses this week along with the usual suspects:

  • Fresh Chevre: plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper
  • Sheep Milk Feta
  • Bloomy rind cheeses including Little Bloom on the Prairie, Angel Food, Ewe Bloom and maybe Black Sheep
  • Roxanne
  • Moonglo—the first spring batch is ready!
  • Huckleberry Blue
  • Eldon—our spicy sheep milk blue

The gelato flavors reflect summer:

  • Vanilla*
  • Chocolate*
  • Hazelnut
  • Mint Stracciatella
  • Strawberry*
  • Lemon Balm-Thyme
  • Thai Basil
  • Ginger Ricotta
  • Blackberry Cream*
  • Peach Sorbetto*
  • Nectarine Sorbetto*
  • Cucumber Lime Mint Sorbetto

Come out to the farmers’ markets and stock up on these goodies. You’ve gotta buy something else besides tomatoes and sweet corn, right?

On Farm Sales will continue through the end of August—Wednesdays from 4 to 6PM.  We should have peaches and blackberries available for u-pick during those hours for at least another three weeks. Our pear and apple crops are looking abundant as well, so stay tuned for u-pick opportunities for those fruits as well. 

Reminder: The tickets for the last four farm dinners will go on sale at 5PM on Saturday August 3rd.  To view the descriptions of the fall dinners and then go to our Show Clix page to purchase them, go to the section of our website called "Dinners on the Farm, then click on "2013 Dinner Season." I highly recommend checking out how ShowClix works before August 5th at 5PM so you are familiar with how it all works.  

Posted 7/30/2013 8:51pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.


It's time again for another fun-filled Wednesday afternoon at Prairie Fruits Farm. We'll be open tomorrow (July 31st) from 4 to 6PM.  The peach trees are loaded down and ready for picking. We've got blackberries as well. Please go to the north side of our farm (there will be signs at the end of our driveway) for u-pick. We provide the picking buckets and containers for your harvest. Blackberries are $3/ pint and $5/quart. Peaches are $1.50/pound.  

peach beauties

In addition to u-pick, we've got a full array of cheeses for you to taste and buy. Expect:

  • Fresh chevre
  • Several styles of bloomy rind cheeses
  • Feta
  • Moonglo
  • Roxanne
  • Huckleberry Blue
  • Eldon-sheep milk Blue

Stewart will be manning the gelato dipping cabinet with scoops (*) and pints:

  • Vanilla*
  • Chocolate*
  • Hazelnut
  • Mint Stracciatella
  • Strawberry*
  • Lemon Balm-Thyme
  • Thai Basil
  • Ginger Ricotta
  • Blackberry Cream*
  • Peach Sorbetto*
  • Nectarine Sorbetto*
  • Cucumber Lime Mint Sorbetto

Tomahnous Farm will have height-of-the summer veggies and probably some berries.  Lucky Duck Farm will be bringing their bright orange pastured chicken and duck eggs along with their natural Icelandic sheep yarn and a few ham steaks.  They're bringing along a friend too--Grazin' Acres Farm with their 100% grass-fed Angus beef: ground beef and maybe a few steaks and/or roasts as well.  Check them out at: http://www.grazinacres.com/

Stewart's Artisan Breads will have his usual assortment of bagels, old-world breads, cookies and granola.  Laurence Mate, the Knife Dude, will be here too. He has two more stints as our weekly knife sharpener (tomorrow and August 7th) before he takes a little vacation. So, if you've been holding off getting your knives sharpened, don't delay. 

Dinner Tickets

Seats for the last four farm dinners of the season will go on sale this coming Saturday afternoon, August 3rd at 5PM.  To view the descriptions of the fall dinners and then go to our Show Clix page to purchase them, go to the section of our website called "Dinners on the Farm, then click on "2013 Dinner Season." I highly recommend checking out how ShowClix works before August 5th at 5PM so you are familiar with how it all works.  As most of you know, we only have 40 seats per dinner and they go fast. 


Posted 7/25/2013 10:47pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

Farm News

There are a few hardcore realities of dairy farming; number one: only a very few choice buck kids get to stay and become breeding males, and number two: if you’re a doe, you gotta pull your weight in the milk production arena.  This week, we had to make some hard decisions on both counts.  Wes took several of our buck kids to their “one bad day” one-way journey.  This is our first year raising the buck kids to this point.  I admit; it is hard for me. I tell myself that they have lived a short but privileged life here at Prairie Fruits Farm.  I know they will be treated humanely at the very end.  Nonetheless, it is still hard and humbling.

On the feminine side of the aisle, it’s more of bittersweet affair. We have been collecting data every month on each of our does’ milk production; how much total milk they produce, what percentage butterfat and protein their milk contains (these are the components of cheese so they are almost as important as the total milk volume produced) and how their milk production changes over their lactation (milking season).  The ideal doe is one who produces lots of high fat milk over most of her nine- to-ten month lactation.  I am happy to report that we do have a number of does who approach this ideal.  We also have a number of does each year who deviate substantially from this ideal. It is the dairy person’s job to constantly improve the milk production genetics of the herd, and to do that, you must be willing to part with the does who just aren’t pulling their weight on the milk line.  If I could waive my magic wand and turn all of our does into star milkers, my job would be so much easier. This year, I had to make some hard decisions about several does who are very near and dear to my heart and to the hearts of our staff.  Thankfully, I found a wonderful home for these girls—a goat dairy in southwest Michigan who is expanding their herd to meet their growing demand for cheese. 

We started the morning loading the does into the stock trailer. With alfalfa and grain enticements, along with a soft bed of straw, it wasn’t too difficult to coax them in.  The cool weather that had blown in over the weekend lightened our stress over them making the journey in good health.  As we pulled out of the driveway, the typical goat whines subsided and they settled in for the ride.  We made a couple of pit stops during the four hour journey to make sure they were ok, and to give them a water and “bathroom” break (I don’t think they pee while the vehicle is moving).  When we arrived at our destination in Bangor, Michigan, I could tell immediately that they were going to good new home. Their goat barn was immaculate, spacious and well ventilated. The rolling pastures dotted with their own goats evoked “heidy-esque” images.  We were clearly not in “Kansas” anymore.  We walked our girls into their new barn digs and gave them their second-cutting alfalfa hay (the MI hay was a far cry from our lush leafy alfalfa grown on prairie soils) to ease the transition.  A lovely tortoise shell barn cat with emerald green eyes peered unconcernedly at the goats from under the hay manger.  I stayed with them for a long while so they would begin to acclimate to their new surroundings.  One resident La Mancha-Saanen cross doe came into the barn to check out the new girls from the other side of the fence.  Our girls seemed unfazed, focused on their beautiful alfalfa.  We chatted with the owners for a while and then gave our final goat hugs and kisses good-bye. 

On the drive home, we couldn’t resist the temptation to stop at several roadside fruit stands and load up on blueberries, cherries, peaches and apricots. Michigan is a fruitophile’s version of utopia.   Leaving Michigan, the rest of the journey is hard core interstate travel-semi trucks so numerous, they pulverize highways in short order. As we transitioned from interstate 80 west to 57 south, we felt a violent and loud vibration in the truck. Was it a dreaded flat tire? We managed to pull off into a gas station to check the tires only to find all of them intact and fully inflated.  We got back onto the highway and picked up speed only to feel the intense vibration again.  It was now past 8PM, and with no open mechanic in sight, we resigned ourselves to take the back roads home travelling at less than 45 miles per hour.  The interstates have forced us away from the small towns that used to benefit from interstate travel.  The remnants of these small towns are still there, often hidden from view by the strip malls and walmart megastores.  The full moon rose to our east, its pale yellow grandeur reminding us that slowing down has its beauty.  We pulled into our driveway a little after 10:30 that evening. Blue, the dog, greeted us in the driveway.  Everyone else was sleeping.

Farmers’ Markets, Farm Dinner Seats, Fruit and other Happenings

We’re attending one farmers’ market this Saturday, July 27th: Urbana’s Market at the Square. The weather should be glorious, so you have no excuses.  We’ll be there from 7AM to 12 noon weighted down with the summer’s cheese and gelato.  We’ve got:

  • Fresh chevre—plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper (a note to you tomato chevre lovers: it won’t be long now)
  • Fresh goat milk ricotta—you’ve got to try our ricotta if you haven’t already. It is so sweet and goes perfectly with all those fresh berries that are in season now
  • Sheep milk feta-try crumbling this cheese on some summer tacos. It’s delish!
  • An array of bloomy rind cheeses likely to include Angel Food, Little Bloom on the Prairie, Ewe Bloom and Black Sheep.  These cheeses are great with salads too.
  • Roxanne—firm sheep milk cheese in all its buttery wonder
  • Huckleberry Blue-this blue cheese with sycamore leaves soaked in pear brandy will knock your socks off
  • 1st batch of the season “Eldon” our sheep milk blue cheese-it’s spicy but nice
  • 1st spring batch of Moonglo-our raw goat milk tomme.  Slightly tangy, but the nuttiness is unmistakable

Need some gelato? Try a pint of:

  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Hazelnut
  • Strawberry
  • Mint Stracciatella (our fresh mint with flakes of chocolate ganache )
  • Lemon Balm Thyme
  • Thai Basil
  • Ginger Ricotta (super creamy and gingery)
  • Blackberry Crème
  • Cucumber Lime Mint Sorbetto

Farm Dinner Update: We have another farm dinner this Saturday (July 27th) and the theme is “A Greek Feast.” We have a few open seats due to last minute cancellations. You can check out the menu on our website and go to Showclix to purchase them.

Fruit Update: We had a record turnout for U-Pick blackberries this past Wednesday, but I believe we will have more available for picking during next Wednesday’s open house from 4 to 6PM. We are monitoring the ripeness of the peaches too, and I will let folks know if they will be available for picking this week before the open house.  They are looking gorgeous (a bit small, but mighty juicy and tasty). 

Farmer training: For those of you who haven’t heard the news, we will be partnering with The Land Connection, a local non-profit organization, to host the beginning farmer training program called “Central Illinois Farm Beginnings” this fall.  The Land Connection is also offering a couple of one-day workshops called “Is Entrepreneurial Farming for You?”  If you find yourself day dreaming about farming, you should check out these programs. Here’s a bit more detail from The Land Connection:

Wanna be a farmer?  Central Illinois Farm Beginnings will help you plan and launch an economically and environmentally sustainable farm business. And classes will be held at Prairie Fruits Farm!  Learn more, and apply online, at central.illinoisfarmbeginnings.org.

The Land Connection has been training new farmers for eight years through the full-year course, Central Illinois Farm Beginnings. Starting this September, this full-year course will be held on-site at Prairie Fruits Farm, taking advantage of the many hands-on learning opportunities there, in addition to the business planning seminars that are the core of Farm Beginnings.

 Is Entrepreneurial Farming for You?  Find out at The Land Connection’s Aug. 8 evening workshop at Common Ground.  Check it out:

http://www.thelandconnection.org/training-farmers/entrepreneurial-farming-for-you/