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Welcome to Leslie's Blog.
Posted 8/12/2010 9:11pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
This is our summer for tomatoes.  Big fat "Paul Robeson" blacks, rose colored brandywines, tart yellow and green "green zebras" and our favorite for drying, the "juliette.'  Juliette is an little roma heirloom variety that is prized for its rich tomato flavor upon drying. This is the variety we use for our "heirloom tomato" chevre. Our food dryer was going full steam this week in preparation for chopping and blending the dried juliettes into our fresh chevre.  We're happy to let you know that we will be bringing this "tomato-esque" chevre to the farmers' markets this Saturday.  We'll be attending FOUR farmers' markets this Saturday, August 14th: Urbana, Bloomington, Chicago's Green City Market and Oak Park. 
We'll also be bringing our regular repertoire of chevre: plain, herbs de Provence and cracked black peppercorn.  For those of you who acquired a taste for our sheep milk feta, no worries; we'll have more for you to crumble on a fresh tomato salad.
We also have plenty of Angel Food and Little Bloom on the Prairie as well as Moonglo.
Depending on how clean the u-pickers did on our peaches and blackberries tonight, we should be bringing more peaches and blackberries to the Urbana and Bloomington Farmers' Markets. 
If you can't beat the heat, eat some cheese and fruit.
Posted 8/5/2010 7:50pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
When you can actually see sweat on the brows of your goats, you know it is truly HOT. During milking last evening, Wes noticed that several of our does had actual sweat on their faces. These are temperatures that try the souls of dairy farmers. It's all the poor girls can do to get up the energy to eat, let alone produce massive quantities of milk. So, again, our milk production has taken a bit of dive this week. We're still trying to crank out as much cheese as their delicious milk will yield. We are attending three farmers' markets this Saturday, August 7th: Urbana, Oak Park and Green City Market. 
This week we have the following repertoire of cheeses available for you to enjoy with a nice cool salad or just a simple baguette, some jam and some cheese:
Fresh chevre--plain, herbs de Provence and cracked pepper (for those of you who are fans of our heirloom-dried tomato chevre, stay tuned. The little juliet tomatoes are ripening, and we have started to dry them. No promises, but we might have the dried tomato chevre by next weekend!)
Mouton frais--those of you who frequented our stand at the farmers' markets last year may recall a very rich, dense sheep milk version of our chevre we call "Mouton Frais" (literally means 'fresh sheep' in french).  I like to think it has the texture and consistency of mascarpone cheese (a very creamy rich soft italian cheese used to make tiramisu among many other dishes). The taste is less lemony than the chevre, but is clean and milky.  Try it with fruit or honey, or if you're really ambitious, you can use it to make tiramisu.
Sheep milk feta is back and delicious as ever (we modified the recipe a bit, and I think the flavor on this version is really nice)
Little Bloom on the Prairie--enjoy this little disc of cream and gooeyness with some fresh fruit and a crisp Sauvignon blanc by a cool body of water, preferably
Roxanne--the raw sheep milk brebis with a buttery, grassy taste.  Slice it, place it on a piece of crusty bread, throw a slice of fresh heirloom tomato on top, drizzle with some good olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt, and you have a simple hot weather meal.
We might be bringing a few Angel Food and Moonglo to select markets, so get there early for the full selection.

In addition to the cheeses, we'll be bringing more of our first extraction, light and floral honey (lovingly extracted by Emil and Melvin Blobaum, our beekeepers). Also, we will probably be bringing peaches and blackberries to the Urbana Market, but probably not sending them up to Chicago (a bit too fragile for truck transport).
For those of you who have come out to pick fruit, you're doing a GREAT job!! You have lightened our harvesting burden tremendously. We will continue U-pick of peaches and blackberries this coming week--Monday, August 9th and Thursday August 12th from 5-7PM.
Farm Dinner this Saturday-Summer Beer and Cheese
We have a dinner this Saturday evening, starting at 4PM, featuring beers brewed right here in Champaign at the Blind Pig Brewery. The menu is not up on the website yet, but I plan to post it tomorrow under Dinners on the Farm heading (then go to "Dinner Descriptions and Make Reservations" then click on that specific dinner for more details). We'll be pairing four beers with two small plate dishes each, including TWO desserts. It is SOLD OUT-sorry, but for those of you who don't have reservations already we'll be sure to tell you how it went.
Posted 8/2/2010 10:02pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
For those of you planning to come out to the farm this week to pick peaches and blackberries, we will be open Tuesday and Thursday from 5-7PM (NOTE the hours have shortened from 3 to 2 hours). We won't be offering u-pick this coming Sunday due to the Memorial Service we'll be holding for Daniel Schreiber.
The following week, if there are still enough peaches, we'll hold u-pick hours on Monday, August 9th and Thursday, August 12th from 5-7PM. Stay tuned next week on the update for what will be available.
Posted 7/31/2010 7:02pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
For those of you who came to either the Green City Market or the Urbana Farmers' Market today and didn't find a bag of cheese goodies waiting for you, the reason is that you have a half share of the CSG.  I should have mentioned in my earlier email this past week that this week's delivery was for full share holders only. I apologize for any confusion or inconvenience this may have caused you.
The Full shareholders have two more shipments or deliveries coming this year: one in late September and one in early December.
The half shareholders will receive one more shipment or delivery this year. I would like your feedback on when you would prefer to have this share delivered to you. These terms hold for CSG shareholders whose cheeses are shipped as well.
For the folks in Bloomington with Full CSG shares, your summer share will be delivered at the Bloomington Farmers' Market on Saturday, August 14th. Sorry for the wait, and thanks for your patience.
HALF SHARE CSG MEMBERS ONLY: Please vote on timing of your last shipment-delivery of cheese, and I will go with the what the majority of respondents want:
End of September___
Early December___

Thank you for your participation in this fledgling program. As always, I welcome your feedback on the cheeses, delivery mechanisms, etc.
leslie
Posted 7/30/2010 8:23am by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Earlier this week, we learned of the sudden and untimely death of Daniel Schreiber, known to many in the Champaign-Urbana community as "the chocolate guy."  Daniel, just barely 24 years old, had begun to produce artesanal chocolates from "bean to bar."  It was obvious to all who met him and who knew him that this guy was exceptional.  The intensity of his passion and creativity was rare.  His chocolates, single country origin beans, high cacao content, laced with unusual ingredients like mushrooms or dried black currants from our farm, were joyful to eat. We got to know Daniel only over the past few months when he started working in our cheeserie part time. His loss ripples through us on many levels-personal, the local foods community and within the small budding community of food artisans in Champaign Urbana. For those of you who knew Daniel and who live in the Champaign-Urbana area, we will be hosting a memorial service to celebrate his life on August 8th (a Sunday) from 5-7PM.  Daniel's family will be here, and we will be having a pot-luck meal. 

For me, the best way to honor Daniel is to keep producing the highest quality artisan cheeses and offering them to our patrons. Our stand at the Urbana Farmers' Market is next to Dan's, and the Market Manager will be leaving that space open for the remainder of the season in his remembrance.
We will be at the Urbana Farmers' Market this Saturday (and many more Saturdays to come) as well as Green City Market and the Oak Park Farmers' Market.
We have the following cheeses for you:
Chevre--plain, herbs de Provence and cracked pepper
Angel Food
Little Bloom on the Prairie

Sheep Milk Ricotta
Roxanne


We should also have some peaches and blackberries at Urbana and maybe the Chicago Farmers' Markets. I will be at the Oak Park Farmers' Market this Saturday, as Adam will be on vacation.  Cesar will be holding down the fort at Green City (and hopefully not standing in a pool of water like last Saturday), and Wes will be selling his heart out at the Urbana Farmers' Market.
As always (and it can never be stated enough), we value the relationships we have with all of you who support and create our local foods communities.
Posted 7/26/2010 4:21pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Greetings:
Last Saturday's torrential rains in Chicago made for meager cheese sales at Green City Market and Oak Park.  So, we have cheese available this week for sale during our u-pick fruit hours: Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5-8PM--chevre, ricotta, Little Bloom on the Prairie, Angel Food and a little bit of feta. The next varieties of peaches are ripening as I write--Sweet Sixteen and Red Havens.  There are a few Reliance left, but not many. Peaches are $1.50/lb. We also have big, juicy blackberries available for picking-$3/pint. Come on out to the farm to pick and watch the sunset.  It has been quite a display of pinks, purples, oranges and reds lately; not to mention the rise of the full moon over the eastern sky!  This place can be such a show off sometimes. 
For those of you who have been coming out to the Andersonville Farmers' Market to buy our cheeses, we are taking a break from that market this week. We'll keep you posted on when/if we decide to return to this market.

Posted 7/22/2010 10:46pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

It's hot. The weather is perfect for eating cheeses that keep you cool.  We'll be attending four farmers' markets this Saturday--Urbana, Bloomington, Green City Market and Oak Park--and we'll be bringing fresh chevre, fresh sheep milk ricotta and debuting our "Greek style" sheep milk feta.  All the cheeses are perfect adornments for heirloom tomatoes drizzled with a little olive oil and sea salt. Or just throw a salad together and top it with some of these cheeses.
We'll also be bringing plenty of Angel Food, our goat milk brie and maybe a few Little Bloom on the Prairie.  Both of these cheeses are great simply sliced a top some nice crusty bread.  If you have a little energy, you can slice some fresh peaches with these cheeses or spoon a little honey on the bread.
If time permits, we'll cut up the last of our Mollisol Pecorino Romano cheese.  This cheese too would be great shaved over a salad or if you grill some sweet corn, you can grate some Pecorino over the hot buttered corn--deliciousness incarnate!
Our beekeepers Emil and Melvin Blobaum have been braving the heat (and the feisty bees) to take the first extraction of honey from the hives. It is light and floral as we have come to expect from early season honey.  We'll be bringing both 8 oz. and 16 oz. jars to all four markets.  The honey is a sublime accompaniment to the bloomy rind cheeses and the ricotta.
Lastly, we should be bringing some organic pears, blackberries and maybe peaches to select markets on Saturday. We held our first u-pick of peaches and blackberries this evening, and folks did an excellent job of picking most of the ripe Reliance peaches. 
For Chicagoans, if you haven't seen the menu for the Birchwood Kitchen Dinner featuring our cheeses on Monday, July 26th--check it out. 
I believe there are still seats available if you want to make reservations.
Don't let the heat stifle your farmers' market shopping. Just bring a cooler or insulated bag and shop with abandon. It's the best antidote for a sultry summer day.

Posted 7/20/2010 6:32pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Lots going on this week, much of it in Chicago.  Tomorrow, Wednesday, July 21st, we are attending the Andersonville neighborhood farmers' market from 3-8PM. We'll be bringing fresh chevre, Prairie Dropseed (the mold-ripened ball of goat and sheep milk deliciousness), a few Angel Food, our goat milk brie, Moonglo (raw goat milk tomme with a rind washed with Moonglow pear tea) and Roxanne (raw sheep milk brebis). 
If you haven't already made reservations, there are a few seats left for the Vie Restaurant (Western Springs, IL) Farm Dinner tomorrow night featuring our farm products and our cheeses. Check out the menu in my newsletter blog from last Thursday, July 15th (www.prairiefruits.com).
Next Monday, July 26th, we're collaborating with Birchwood Kitchen for another farm-inspired dinner.
Check out the menu:
Prarie Fruit Farm Dinner July 26-v02.birchwood.pdf

Lastly, we're starting our U-Pick for organic blackberries and peaches this week. Starting Thursday, July 22nd, we will be open for the following days and hours:
Thursdays 5-8PM
Sundays 1-4PM
Tuesdays 5-8PM

We have blackberries to pick at $3/pint and delicious organic peaches at $1.50/lb. Come to the large white pole barn to pick up picking baskets and instructions on where to pick.
Posted 7/15/2010 9:49pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Pears are ripe  
News from the Farm

It sometimes feels like the weeks go by so slowly in late June and early July as we watch and wait on green, green and more green fruit and vegetables. There's the daily inspection to check for any signs of ripeness.  "Are they ready yet??" I ask Wes or Kris every other day. "No, still green" is the response I get. Then, all of sudden, it happens; baskets of ripe pears, blackberries appear in the kitchen.  A few peaches start to trickle in along with a cherry tomato or two. Tonight Kris, our garden caretaker, went out to the garden and picked a couple of beautifully ripe and lusciously purple Black Krim tomatoes.  We savored them for dinner tonight drizzled with a little olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt and cracked pepper (and topped with a delicious herb marinated chevre round that Alisa had made for a farm dinner).  The other night our neighbor came by with a huge bag of sweet corn that he had just picked. We cooked it that same night-a quick journey in boiling water. My mother, visiting us from Boston, remarked "This is the best corn I have ever tasted in my life."  Our prairie soils are show-offs of the highest order, and we feel so fortunate to experience such richness of flavors. 

Speaking of abundance, we will start offering hours for u-pick fruit in the next week or so.  Stay tuned.
Farmers' Market Offerings

We're attending three farmers' markets this week: Urbana, Green City Market and Oak Park. 
We have plenty of fresh chevre this week--plain, herbs de Provence and cracked peppercorn
We also have Angel Food and Little Bloom on the Prairie for those of you have been waiting patiently for these gooey little rounds.
Prairie Dropseed
will be making a semi-final appearance this weekend as we give our sheep milk bloomy rind cheeses a rest for a few weeks. If you love this little mixed milk ball of creamy-crumbly cheese, you might want to get a couple.  I made a pasta dish with it earlier this week, and this cheese really adds wonderful creaminess and flavor to grilled veggies with pasta.
Ewe Bloom, Black Sheep and Krotovina
are on summer vacation and should be back sometime in late August.
Our next batches of Roxanne and Moonglo are ready, so we will be bringing those to the markets this week. 
Don't let the heat keep you away from the farmers' markets or from buying cheese. Just come with an insulated bag or cooler, and you should be just fine.
Farm Dinners Beyond the Farm

As if our own farm dinners aren't enough to satisfy desires for eating amazingly prepared local foods, we're partnering up with a couple of restaurants in Chicago who will prepare special menus featuring our farm's bounty. The first one takes place next Wednesday evening, July 21st, at Vie Restaurant in Western Springs.  Here are the details:

Join us for a 6 course Dinner featuring Prairie Fruits Farm
6:30 reception 7:00 Dinner
$65 per person $30 optional wine pairings
excluding tax and service 

reception

passed items

apple mint cocktail

 first

swiss chard and gooseberry tart, pickled lily buds

second

pan-fried fresh chevre and potato terrine, basil and wild greens

third

ricotta tortellini in hen brodo, kale, italian parsley and pecorino

fourth

deep-fried chicken scotch egg, wilted dandelions

cheese

a selection of farmstead cheeses, preserves, and sourdough

predessert

frozen yogurt and blackberry compote

to finish

bartlett pear tart honey ice cream, almond cream

Call Vie for reservations

708-246-2082

The second dinner is set for Monday evening, July 26th at Birchwood Kitchen. Located in the Bucktown neighborhood, they plan to offer a four course BYOB dinner featuring our cheese and produce.  Go to their website to find out how to make reservations and for forthcoming details about the menu: http://birchwoodkitchen.com/

 




Posted 7/9/2010 5:44am by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

NEWS FROM THE FARM The cyclic nature of seasons plays tricks on your mind, especially on a farm. In the spring, the worries stem from expectant mother goats to feeding babies to how to process all that milk, to how do I get all those berries planted with all this rain. As the babies are weaned (we just weaned our last group of kids yesterday), the outside temperatures rise, the excessive amounts of rain turn to dry soils needing a soak, the worries transform. Why does their milk production keep dropping, how do we keep the pasture growing so they have enough good forage to eat, when are those peaches going to ripen???  Every year you think you have learned from these transitions and you promise yourself you WILL be prepared next year; you will anticipate these changes and smooth out the peaks and valleys. You WILL be a better, smarter farmer. Then, the new year rolls around and you’re embroiled in the worries of each day. Before you realize it, the transition is upon you and you have completely forgotten that you knew it was coming and should have prepared for it.  Such is the predicament of being so tied to the land, the goats, the crops-their rhythms are predictable but you're so entwined in them, you often don't see them.

So, what does this philosophical waxing have to do with cheese and markets, you’re asking yourself?  Well, we are in the height of the heat, so milk has become a precious commodity to make into delicious cheese. Nonetheless, we have a respectable assortment of cheeses to offer you this week at the farmers’ markets. 

This Saturday, we’ll be attending FOUR markets: Urbana, Bloomington, Green City and Oak Park. For those of you who live in Chicago, don’t forget: you can also get the best selection of our cheeses at a mid-week farmers’ market in the Andersonville neighborhood (Wednesday afternoon-evenings from 3-8PM).  Here’s what we have to offer you this week:

  • Fresh Chevre—plain, herbs de Provence and cracked black peppercorn
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie-holding up very well in this heat
  • Ewe Bloom-the last batch for a while, so get it while it lasts
  • Prairie Dropseed-our blended sheep and goat milk ball of creamy yet crumbly cheese with its distinct blue and white mold rind
  • Mollisol Pecorino—the last batch of our sheep milk Romano style cheese for the year. It is 14 months old, slightly salty, a bit nutty and great for grating over hot and cold dishes.

We may be bringing a few of some of our other cheeses to select markets including a few Angel Food (there will be Angel Food at all markets next week, I promise), some Roxanne and a few remaining Pear Capri.  Get to the market early for the best selection; it’s cooler too.