Welcome to Leslie's Blog.
Posted 5/18/2012 11:37am by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Farm News
Like our fellow farmers in central Illinois, we're feeling mildly nervous about the weather. This week's warm and dry pattern seems like an eery foreshadowing of what our summer might be like this year.  We've got the drip tape irrigation going on the newly transplated tomatoes, our sprinklers are running daily on rotating flower beds and our herb garden, and we even put out little saucers of water for those potentially thirsty rabbits who might bite the tomato seedlings off to get at their water.  The silver lining to this lack of clouds is that it is perfect weather for making hay. We took our first cutting of alfalfa hay off about half of our alfalfa field.  Although it's a bit dusty, the goat girls are scarfing up the tender alfalfa leaves. 

Cheese News
 Huckleberry Blue is named after one of our herd’s foundation goats, “Huckleberry.” Now at the sunset age of eight (for a goat anyway), her unusual “blue heeler” coloration and enigmatic personality inspired her namesake raw goats’ milk blue cheese.  She's also our "Udder of the Week" on facebook, so if you want even more details on her, go to our facebook page

Huckleberry the goat
We only make this cheese at two times of the season: early (spring) and late (late fall) lactation, so it is only available at certain times of the year. Our spring lactation batches are now ready for sale.
Nat and Alison, Prairie Fruits Farm’s cheesemakers, share some of their reflections on the goat and the cheese:
Sometimes, the chicken comes before the egg.  By that, we mean it might be best to start with the name given to the cheese instead of the cheese itself.  Huckleberry, the goat, is aloof is a sort of regal way.  We don't fault her for her independence, but all the same, it is the trait that distinguishes her from the herd.  She is beautiful a timeless way too; her goatee will be remarkable for years to come. 

side view of huckleberry's goatee
She has definitely had her "prime," and those customers who have seen her on the walls of the Common Ground Co-op in Urbana know that she exudes defiance and runway model good looks.  The rind of the cheese that took her name is that same sort of pretty, unintentionally good-looking, flawed in a rustic way but be-speckled and appealing all the same.  We wish we could equate her awesome goatee to some part of the cheese, but it’s just awesome on its own. The cheese has had many manifestations during our tenure as cheese makers Prairie Fruits and several years before.  Sometimes muted and creamy, sometimes dry and exceptionally piquant, we have been on a quest to strike the perfect balance of sweetness, piquancy and creaminess in this blue.  We spent a portion of our winter working with other cheesemakers in New England, learning what has worked for them with their blues and what has not.  We brought those techniques back with us, compared them to our existing make procedures, and have tried to hone in on a sweeter, creamier texture that still speaks to our mildly flavored milk and the cheese's aged, complex profile.  We think we have achieved it, with consistent veining, the sweet aromas of goat milk, a more buttery texture on the palate, and a distinctly blue flavor. 

beautiful huckleberry blue cheese
And, that, in the end, brings us back to the goat, because while Huckleberry is not aggressively vying for attention, or spending her time trying to ascend the herd hierarchy, she is unique and respected all the same.  We recommend enjoying it with off-dry, fuller bodied whites, or fruit forward, not-tannic reds and wildflower honey.  Or, if you can still get your hands on them, fresh strawberries.

Nat enjoying a hunk of blue cheese 
Nat really likes his cheese!
Farmers' Markets this week
We're attending two markets this Saturday, May 19th: Urbana and Chicago's Green City Market.  We are hoping that the NATO conference in Chicago won't prevent our Chicago customers from getting to the market, but if you're concerned, here are the expected road closures according to the farmers' market manager: "Expect intermittent closures May 19-21 on I-90/Kennedy from O'Hare to downtown, Ohio from Orleans to Fairbanks, Ontario from Fairbanks to Orleans."

Here's what we're bringing to both markets:
Lots of fresh chevre-plain, herbs de Provence and cracked pepper
Fresh goats' milk ricotta
Sheep milk feta
An assortment of bloomy rind cheeses including: Angel Food, Little Bloom on the Prairie, Ewe Bloom, Black Goat and Black Sheep
Huckleberry Blue-first batch of the spring season

Urbana marketgoers can enjoy pints of gelato:
Chocolate Hazelnut (Gianduja)
Margot's Fresh Mint
Strawberry Sorbetto    
Posted 5/10/2012 10:06pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

My apologies for any confusion. The correct date and time that farm dinner seats will go on sale through ShowClix is Saturday May 12th at 5PM. Please make a note of it. Thank you.

Posted 5/10/2012 7:50pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.


Mother of all goats
As the "mother" of so many babies EVERY year, Mothers' day has taken on a special meaning for me. I'm holding both the smallest and one of the largest kids born on the farm so far--a 3 1/2 pound little doeling born last week (the now famous "teacup goat") and a 10 1/2 pound gentle giant born a couple of days ago to Scarlet. Baby goats have a way of worming their way into your heart.

Farm News

Wes started cutting our alfalfa hay crop today, and we should be baling by the weekend.  We plan to plant the tomatoes tomorrow and put in the sweet potato slips.  Flower seeds are starting to germinate.  The farm is looking lush.  Our cheese makers have been burning the midnight oil to make lots and lots of the little cheeses for which we are known. 

Farmers' Markets

We have a beautiful assortment of those cheeses for you to buy and create the perfect mothers' day gift--the gift of cheeses made lovingly from the milk of goat mothers who are loved.
We're attending two mark
ets on Saturday, May 12th: Urbana and Chicago's Green City Market.  We would be happy to offer you suggestions for mothers' day gifts if you like. Just let us know. We're bringing:

  • Fresh and creamy chevre: plain, herbs de Provence and cracked peppercorn
  • Fresh goat milk ricotta
  • Sheep milk feta
  • An assortment of soft-ripened cheeses including: Angel Food, Little Bloom on the Prairie, Black Goat, Ewe Bloom, Black Sheep and possibly Krotovina

If you want to add goat milk gelato to your mothers' day gift package, Urbana market goers have LOTS to choose from:

  • Vanilla
  • Luscious chocolate
  • Hazelnut
  • Pistachio
  • Margot's Mint
  • Strawberry
  • Gianduja (Chocolate-Hazelnut)
  • Strawberry Sorbetto

Give the gift of local food love to your mother this year. Buy her some Prairie Fruits Farm Cheese and Gelato!

Posted 5/9/2012 2:48pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Greetings. I know I am indulging your tolerance for multiple email messages from Prairie Fruits Farm, but I thought it was important to send you all a separate message about the next set of dinner reservations.  As promised, reservations for the August 4th through September 8th Farm Dinners will go on sale on Saturday, May 12th starting at 10AM. We have a new e-commerce platform called "Show Clix." To view the dinner descriptions and access the reservations section on Show Clix, go to our web page "Dinner Season." Then, scroll down to the specific dinner date and just click where it says "click here." It will take you directly to that dinner on Show Clix. Alternatively, you can view all four dinner dates on Show Clix.  Remember, you can't make a reservation until Saturday May 12th at 10AM. Feel free to peruse the new site before the seats go on sale.
Posted 5/9/2012 12:02pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
lots of cheese

Just a reminder to those of you who live in the Bloomington-Normal and Peoria areas, that signup for our Bread, Cheese and Gelato CSA ends on Saturday May 12th.  If you have been thinking about signing up for a season of cheeses, old-world style breads from Katic Breads or our creamy goat milk gelato, PLEASE ACT NOW.  We have two pick up locations twice monthly on Tuesday evenings (starting May 29th and ending November 13th): downtown Bloomington and Downtown Peoria. To view the general description of the CSA, click here. To sign up, click here.
Posted 5/3/2012 9:49pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

Farm News

Yesterday, our smallest yearling, Gladys, gave birth to twins-two healthy but tiny kids-a doe and a buck.  The little buck weighed just over 4 pounds, the doeling a petite 3 lbs. 7 ozs. Both are complete and healthy and full of spunk.  I've taken to calling the little doeling a "tea cup" goat because she is so miniature.

tea cupt goat with tea kettle

She's just a bit bigger than the tea kettle.  I tried to get her to stand inside it, but she wasn't cooperating. Her diminuitive size is no match for her magnanimous personality.

Wes gets a kiss from tea cup goat

With Wes stealing a little kiss, you get the picture of her miniature nature. 

On other farm news, we finally got some rain this week, setting a green growth spurt in motion. The pasture is lush, the alfalfa crop nearly ready for its first cutting and the flower seeds that Rachel planted are sprouting.  Thankfully, we missed the funnel cloud that materialized over the southern part of Champaign on Tuesday afternoon. 

First Outdoor Farmers' Markets of the Season

Farmers' Market season has arrived at last, bringing our spring open house-breakfast season to a close.  We will be attending two markets on Saturday morning, May 5th: Urbana and Chicago's Green City Market.  Both start at 7AM; Urbana's Market at the Square runs until 12 noon and Chicago's Green City Market (located in Lincoln Square Park) runs until 1PM.  The weather is expected to be balmy: sunny and in the '80's, so it should be a great way to spend your Saturday morning.  We're bringing lots of great cheese:

  • Fresh chevre-plain, herbs de Provence and cracked black peppercorn
  • Fresh goat milk ricotta--what better way to celebrate spring with some fresh ricotta, fresh market greens sauteed and tossed over some pasta. 
  • Sheep milk feta--perfect for a quick spring green salad
  • Angel Food--our creamy, slightly gooey goat milk brie
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie--goat milk camembert, wonderful served warm with some honey
  • Ewe Bloom--a delicate yet intense soft-ripened sheep milk cheese
  • Black Sheep--with ash on the rind, this soft-ripened sheep milk disc is perfect for a spring picnic cheese plate.

For our Urbana customers, we will be selling pints of our goat milk gelato:

  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Hazelnut
  • Pistachio
  • Gianduja (chocolate-hazelnut)
  • Local Strawberry
  • Strawberry Sorbetto
  • Fresh Ginger (limited quantities)

Farm Dinner Reservations, Other Markets this year and our Bread, Cheese and Gelato CSA

We will be releasing reservations for the next four farm dinner dates (August 4th through
September 8th) on Saturday, May 12th. We have a new e-commerce platform through which the tickets will be sold. I will send out another announcement about how this will work on Monday, May 7th, so stay posted.  This year, we will be attending two new farmers' markets: Springfield and Logan Square (a Sunday market in the Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago).  Our first Saturday in Springfield will be May 26th and our first attendance at Logan Square will be June 10th.  We won't be attending the Oak Park Farmers' Market or the Downtown Bloomington Farmers' Market this year. 
For those of you who live in the Bloomington-Normal and Peoria areas, you can still purchase our cheese through our "Bread, Cheese and Gelato CSA." 

We still have openings for the CSA, but you must sign up by Saturday, May 12th.  The first pickup for CSA members will be Tuesday, May 29th either in Bloomington OR Peoria. For more details about how to sign up, visit our website.



Posted 4/26/2012 10:02pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

Here's what's for breakfast on Saturday April 28th, the last of the season:

  • Triple S Farms pork sausage gravy and biscuits
  • Fried Egg with Spinach pancakes, carrots and chevre sauce
  • Three Sisters Oatmeal topped with orange scented granola and a touch of maple syrup
  • Feta and Juliet tomato hand pies
  • Muffins
  • Hot Chocolate
  • Coffee


Posted 4/26/2012 8:34pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

Farm News

Remember the news of over 40 does kidding that first week in March?  Remember the day we reached our 100th kid born less than two weeks after the first kid was born this year?  Well, this goat "baby boom" generation reached the six-week old mark this week, so we decided to weigh them to determine if they had grown enough to wean them off their milk.  Yesterday, we brought the scale out to the kid barn, list of kids in hand (46 in total who were 6 weeks old or older--we have sold over half of this group of 100 already!) and started weighing. Much to my amazement, most of the kids weighed between 21 and 32 pounds after ONLY SIX SHORT weeks!  One of the bucklings weighed over 36 pounds!  Since they had more than quadrupeled in size, we deemed it time to wean them.   We set up a separate new pen for them, Wes built them a cat-walk to distract them, we loaded up their hay feeder with alfalfa hay and let the games begin. We decided to go "cold turkey" on milk withdrawl, because we don't have the setup to gradually reduce the amount of milk that 46 kids should receive.

At first, they were thrilled with their new digs--lots of kids prancing on the cat-walk trying to push their rivals off the plank.  After a couple of hours, the realization that milk was no longer free flowing started to set in, and the din of kid screams began to rise.  By mid-afternoon, the mere sound of human footsteps outside the barn set in motion a cacaphone of 46 indignant kids.  I tried to appease them with some grain, more hay and lots of fresh water.  Their consolation didn't last very long. They were still upset well into the night and this morning. Their voices hoarse, some continued to protest while inhaling their grain. Finally, this evening, the decibels of noise were dying down, they seemed to be satiated with their hay and grain, and most were plum tuckered out from all the histrionics of the past 24 hours. 

Farm Open House, Farm Sales and the Illinois Marathon

This Saturday, April 28th is the last spring farm open house of the season.  As usual, we will be open from 9AM to 12 noon.  We'll be serving up a breakfast that will include Chef Alisa's most-amazing buscuits and gravy (with sausage from Triple S Farms) and feta-heirloom dried tomatoes crafted by Alison. The rest of the menu should be posted on our facebook page sometime tomorrow.  Saturday is also the Illinois Marathon.  You should be able to get out to the farm if you check out the map showing the marathon route and the traffic routes around it

Of course, we'll have plenty of cheese for you to taste and buy:

  • Lots of chevre
  • Fresh goat milk ricotta
  • Sheep Milk Feta
  • Several styles of our goat and sheep milk bloomy rind cheeses
  • Maybe a few pieces of the last fall batch of Moonglo

Gelato flavors include:

  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Hazelnut
  • Pistachio
  • Margot's Mint
  • Giandjua (chocolate-hazelnut deliciousness)
  • Chocolate-Mint
  • Ginger

Our other farmers include Tomahnous Farm, Moraine View Farm and Stewart's Artisan Breads. Blue Moon Farm will be selling at Lincoln Square Mall. Rita Glazik of Cow Creek Farm notified me today that her ramps are done for the season. Hopefully, most of you were able to purchase some of their plump and savory ramps this year. They were delicious!

Cheese in the City (the windy city that is)

Prairie Fruits Farm will be making two appearances in Chicago on Saturday.  We'll be attending the last indoor Green City Market at the Peggy Notebarte Nature Museum from 8AM to 1PM.  We'll be offering our Chicago patrons the same assortment of cheeses we will have here in Champaign at the farm.  I will be attending the 2nd Annual Pastoral Artisan Cheese Festival at the French Market from 11AM to 3PM. I'll be sampling my heart out, so come by for a taste. Pastoral will have our cheeses for sale as well.  If you love cheese, you don't want to miss this one!

Outdoor farmers' market season starts May 5th. Stay tuned for details about what we'll be bringing to the markets.

Posted 4/19/2012 9:54pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

Ethel and Lottie-new mothers
Lottie and Ethel, two of the first fresheners who kidded this week

Our first fresheners have started having babies. Lottie kidded last Saturday during the farm open house; Ethel kidded yesterday afternoon with twins.  The look of befuddled first time mothers is in their eyes.  Their post partum hormones are raging, yet they don't fully comprehend what has just happened to them.  All of a sudden, their udders are swollen with milk, and their destiny as milkers must take precendence.  We coax them gently up the ramp into the milking parlor as they learn the tricks of walking down the stantion platform and putting their heads through the metal head lock to get the coveted grain ration.  Grain is a good distraction for calming them down, putting the inflations on them and getting them milked.  Then, they need to learn the trick of pulling their heads out of the head locks so they can exit the parlor and go back to the barn.  Soon, they will fall into the routine and act like they've been milkers their whole lives.  Right now, a lot of patience is needed. 

big kid-little kid
With new little kids, it's glaring how fast the first crop of kids have grown.  Here's one of the "big" kids (just barely 4 weeks old) checking out one of the little new arrivals.  For now, we have the new borns separated from the older kids as they gain confidence on their feet and determination for drinking milk from the bucket feeder.

With only two more Saturdays left for our spring open house-breakfasts, on farm sales, if you haven't been out yet, now's your chance.  We've got a fantastic breakfast line up--my favorite dish, "eggs in purgatory," is on the menu for this Saturday.  It's a poached egg in a bath of chef Alisa's famous house-made marina sauce.  Scrumptious! We've also got stuffed french toast, house-made doughnuts and several other goodies.  As always, hours are 9AM to 12 NOON.  NO RESERVATIONS REQUIRED. JUST COME AS YOU ARE.  For up to the minute details about the open house, visit our facebook page:!/prairiefriutsfarm
For those University of Illinois students and their mothers visiting for "Moms' Weekend," what better way to celebrate your mother than to bring her out to the farm, see our new mothers and their babies, eat some local food breakfast and buy her some fantastic cheese, gelato and other farm-fresh treats (or let her buy all these goodies for you!).

We've got a great line up of cheeses for you to try and buy:
Lots of fresh chevre--plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper
Fresh goat milk ricotta
Sheep milk feta
Angel Food (brie)
Little Bloom on the Prairie (camembert)
Black goat (ash coated, mold ripened)
Black sheep (a close cousin to black goat, but made with sheep milk)
Ewe Bloom (soft ripened sheep milk)
Moonglo-raw goat milk tomme aged over four months-sharp and complex

We've got some new gelato flavors for you to try in addition to our standards:
NEW: Gianduja (hazelnut-chocolate blend; a favorite italian flavor)
NEW: Chocolate Mint Infusion (chocolate gelato base infused with chocolate mint)
Margot's Mint
Fresh Ginger   
I also want to mention that Art Mart in Lincoln Square Village will start selling our gelato this weekend. If you can't make it to the farm on Saturday morning, check out their offerings of our very own gelato--an exclusive for Urbana.

Our guest farmers this week will be Tomahnous Farm, Blue Moon Farm, Cow Creek Farm (probably the last of their ramps), Moraine View Farm (with green garlic) and Stewart's Artisan Breads with bagels, granola and biscotti.     Celebrate spring in style with some of the best local food around!       


Posted 4/12/2012 10:04pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.


The recent below freezing nights we have experienced may have done some damage to our fruit crop, but it is too early to tell. For sure, the wisteria that were blooming just a few days ago have wilted and look very sad.  Wes examined the tiny peaches today, and he is not sure if we'll have a bumper crop or total crop failure--it could go either way.

On a happier note, I am marvelling at the growth spurt the kids are going through this week. It seems like just yesterday that they were born, yet many of them are approaching the five-week old mark.  We started offering them grain this week, and yes, they like it.  Soon, we will start weaning the oldest kids from milk.  Eating grain takes the edge off the weaning process. Their boundless energy gets them into trouble too--they've been pulling the tubes off their self-feeder (the one that dispenses milk replacer to them on demand), releasing the precious (it's expensive stuff!!) fluid onto the barn floor, resulting in puddles of milk.  The chickens love this feast, but poor Ben has had to clean up the resultant milk "lake" three times in less than 24 hours.  We'll have to outsmart them with baffles to prevent them from pulling off the tubes or divert their attention with other goat toys.

While these kids are growing like corn in july, their mothers are cranking out the milk.  Each of our milking does is producing over a gallon of milk per day! Nat, Alison and Sarah are trying to keep up with the growing volumes of milk.  We made over seven batches of cheese in about 24 hours these past couple of days!!!

On the birthing front, Vivianne, one of the other does who was artificially inseminated (with some very special semen from another buck--not the same as the Millie twins), kidded this afternoon with twin bucks.  They are gorgeous--both chocolate brown.  You can see them this Saturday during the farm open house. They look like Nubian teddy bears.

Farm Sales and Green City Market this Saturday

Join us again this Saturday, April 14th, at the farm for our open house and on farm sales-9AM to 12 noon. Chicago residents, we'll be attending the indoor Green City Market at the Peggy Notebarte Nature Museum from 8AM to 1PM. All this great cheese needs a good home and a willing gullet.

Our cheese offerings (both at the farm and at Green City market) include:

  • Lots of creamy chevre-plain, herbs de Provence and cracked pepper
  • A cornucopia of soft-ripened goat and sheep milk cheeses including the debut of Krotovina, Black Goat, Ewe Bloom, Angel Food and Little Bloom on the Prairie
  • Moonglo--very few late fall wheels remain, so get it while it lasts--we won't have spring batches ready until the early summer
  • Goat Milk Ricotta-first of the season and perfect for a spinach-ricotta pie or spanikopita (it's Greek Easter this weekend, so this would be the perfect way to enjoy our ricotta)
  • Sheep milk feta--perfect on a salad or with some roasted beets!!

For those of you coming to the farm, our gelato offerings include:

  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Hazelnut (paste from the Willamette Valley of Oregon, a stone's throw from Wes' home town of Forest Grove)
  • Sicilian Pistachio
  • Margot's Mint

In addition to our products, we have several other farmers who will be here: Tomahnous Farm, Cow Creek Farm (probably their last weekend for ramps), Stewarts Artisan Breads and a new farmer, Phil Swartz, from Hoopston, who will be bringing spinach and lots of green garlic.  Blue Moon will be at Lincoln Square this Saturday, but back at our farm next weekend.

Breakfasts--check out the menu on our facebook page  

For a general description about how the breakfasts work (no reservations for example) go to our web page that describes the breakfasts and the open house in general.