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Posted 8/5/2016 8:31am by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

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 Farm News

Art imitating life, science-fiction stories ripped from the headlines; oftentimes, the real story is juicier than the concocted.  This week, we turned our attention back to the garden that is now a jungle.  The neglected tomato vines were so thick, it was hard to tease apart one plant from another.  It was tempting to grab a machete and hack a path back to neat and tidy rows; we opted to use our hands to tackle the job.  As we began our work of weeding and stringing, we noticed the tell-tale signs of caterpillar damage—leaves eaten at the tips, lots and lots of dark green frasse everywhere.  The culprits were hanging just below their latest meal, long, plump and juicy. The infamous tomato hornworm, aka, the larval stage of a beautiful sphynx moth, was having a feast at our tomatoes’ expense. 

hornworm catepillars

I confess that I think the caterpillar is beautiful; garishly lime-green with false white eye spots (their defense against predators) and a little spiky tail emblematic of all sphynx moths.  Although this particular species is considered a pest, I have a special fondness for sphynx moths. They seem to represent a cross-over from insect to bird, hummingbirds in particular. 

The pest has a natural enemy. This “enemy” is not intimated by those big false eyes. A tiny parasitic wasp lays its eggs in the caterpillar, the eggs hatch and start eating the caterpillar from the inside out. Eventually, the parasites reprogram the tiny brain of the caterpillar, commanding it to hang itself on a branch and then die so that the adult wasps can hatch out of it and fly away to seek out their next victims.  Sound like your favorite B Movie Sci Fi flick? Invasion of the Body Snatchers? Alien?  It’s all very real, ghoulishly cool and wonderful way to keep a crop pest in check. 

parasitic wasp

Market News

The proverbial bounty of summer has come to the markets—tomatoes, sweet corn, stone fruits, melons—all, the perfect foil for our cheeses. We will be attending three markets on Saturday-Urbana, Bloomington and Green City Market (Lincoln Park in Chicago), and the Tuesday afternoon market in Champaign (run by The Land Connection).  Here’s the lineup of cheeses:

  • Fresh chevre: plain, herb de Provence, cracked pepper
  • SUMMER SPECIAL: Prairie Dropseed—we brought this little aged chevre bloomy back for a summer treat—who wouldn’t want to devour a little puffy white ball of cheese that looks like a snow ball in this heat-the paste is firm and fudgy, the rind has lovely mushroom notes. I recommend making a caponata (eggplant and tomato relish) and serving it on toasts with this cheese.
  • Raw-milk feta aged in whey brine—you must try this in a feta-watermelon salad recipe
  • Angel Food—little bloomy, perfect for adorning slices of fresh tomatoes drizzled with olive oil and slivered basil
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie: one of our favorite Chicago chefs likes to throw this on the grill (very briefly) to get a slight char and then serves it with a crudité of fresh veggies
  • Black Goat: don’t let the funky rind deter you from enjoying this cheese-folks at the American Cheese Society were going crazy over our ash-ripened bloomy
  • Moonglo: our version of a raw milk tomme, this cheese is firm, sharp and has a lovely fruity finish
  • Magia Negra: if you’re inspired to make Mexican elote (sweet corn with grated cotija cheese and butter and paprika), grab yourself a wedge of our raw-milk grating-style cheese. It’s perfect with sweet corn

Some of our market goers may have noticed that our crackers are back on the market tables (Urbana and Green City Market). We have retooled our cracker recipes using all local grains (mostly from Severson Farm aka Quality Organics)-wheat, oats, blue and yellow corn meal.  We will be making these on a regular basis—herbed flatbread, whole wheat-sesame, blue corn-chevre and oat-chevre-so check them out and let us know what you think. Of course, we think that they are the perfect vehicle to enjoy our cheeses.

Gelato: Our gelato maker is back from vacation (boy, did we miss her), so we’ve got some great summer flavors for you (note: not all flavors are going to all three markets):

  • Salted Caramel Swirl
  • Peach Crisp
  • Blueberry Sorbetto
  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Hazelnut

The Farm Store “The Real Stand”: Our store is open with regular hours—Wednesday through Friday, 11-6, Saturday-Sunday 1-4. We still have some fantastic local sweet corn (from our neighbor up the road), meats, sausages, cheeses, gelato and more.  We have started harvesting our cherry tomatoes, so we have them available for purchase.  Our peach crop is in hiatus right now (no U-Pick for another week or two), but we might be bringing in another local farmer’s peaches. They aren’t organic, but we taste tested them, and they are very sweet and juicy. 

CUFarmers: Can’t make it to the markets? NO WORRIES—order online and then pick up your order at the University of IL Research Park on Wednesday afternoon.  It’s an easy way to get the best local food around. 

Farm Dinners in August: Believe it or not, we still have some seats open to the two dinners and one brunch this month. Our only ALL VEGETARIAN dinner-brunch is August 20th-21st. The menu, crafted by our friends at Sunday Dinner Club, is Indian-Inspired—spicy foods for hot times. My mouth waters when I re-read the menus. You should check them out, be smitten and click on the reservations button. We also have a few seats left for our summer southern BBQ with the chef from Vie Restaurant in Western Springs.  We’ll be featuring a whole hog raised by Triple S Farms. 

Cooking Classes come to the farm! We are VERY excited to welcome back our former chef, Alisa DeMarco. Sponsored by the Illinois Stewardship Alliance’s Buy Fresh-Buy Local Campaign, she will hold three cooking classes in late August through mid -September.  Here’s the link to class descriptions and registration information.   


Copyright 2016. Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery, LLC. 2016. All rights reserved. 4410 N. Lincoln Ave., Champaign, Illinois 61822 Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery, LLC is responsible for the content of this email. Please contact Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell with any inquiries.

Posted 7/27/2016 11:02am by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

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 Farm News

This week, we cheese makers converge on Des Moines, Iowa to commune with other cheese makers and cheese mongers from across North America.  The American Cheese Society, the organization that represents artisan and specialty cheese folk holds their annual meeting in the height of summer.  The meeting is a love fest of cheese—seminars on the science of cheese making, tastings with beer, wine, honey, a competition with over 1200 cheese entries and the cherry on top—“The Festival of Cheese.” 

It’s a challenging time of year to leave the farm and the cheeserie with a skeleton crew. Our little creamery runs pretty lean and mean; Dani and Lynn, our two main cheese makers, crank out the overwhelming majority of the cheese that leaves our farm.  While I try to attend this conference when it returns to the Midwest every few years, they have never been.  It’s important to connect with your “people” from time to time. It’s important to have a community with whom you can talk “shop.” It’s too easy to let the frenzied pace of cheese making at the height of our season keep us from leaving the farm.  Cheese knowledge beckons us; we’ll make do for a few days (that’s code for me running the show for a couple of days!!).

Farm Store and U-Pick Peaches

Our farm store “The Real Stand” still has some fresh, tender sweet corn for sale, along with our regular offerings of cheese, gelato, meats, sausages, etc.  Regular hours: Wednesday-Friday, 11-6 and Sat/Sun; 1-4 PM. Knife Sharpening will be happening on Wednesday afternoons from 4-6 PM. If it doesn’t rain on Thursday, we’ll have U-Pick Peaches from 4-7 PM. 

CU Farmers: Check out our offerings on Champaign-Urbana’s first and only multi-farm local food buying club.  Ordering opens on Friday mornings at 8 AM and closes the following Monday at 10 pm. Pick up is on Wednesdays from 4-6 at the University of IL Research Park-Caterpillar Building parking lot-1902 S. 1st Street. It’s a very civilized way to shop for local food with integrity. 

Farmers Markets We’re attending three markets this Saturday, July 30th: Urbana’s Market at the Square, Green City Market and Downtown Bloomington Farmers’ Market. We’ve got:

  • Fresh chevre: plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper
  • Raw-milk feta aged in whey brine-tangy, crumbly and delicious
  • Angel Food: firm, brie-style (really, it’s more like a crottin)
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie: our goat milk camembert-style cheese
  • Black Goat: this batch has little bit of wild blue on the rind, but it’s super delicious and slightly gooey
  • Moonglo: our raw-milk tomme, think sharp like a cheddar (but fruity) and supple like a gouda
  • Magia Negra: this raw milk grating style cheese is like a marriage between Manchego and Swiss (lots of lovely nutty notes)
  • Goat Milk Yogurt: Our yogurt is a bit thin this time of year when the goat milk solids are low, but it is so wonderful paired with all the fresh berries in season right now-make a smoothy, go the savory route and use it to make a cool cucumber raita (Indian sauce)

Need Gelato? Here’s the lineup of flavors available by the pint:

  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Hazelnut (limited)
  • Fresh Mint
  • Thai Basil
  • Peaches & Cream
  • Red Currant

Copyright 2016. Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery, LLC. 2016. All rights reserved. 4410 N. Lincoln Ave., Champaign, Illinois 61822 Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery, LLC is responsible for the content of this email. Please contact Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell with any inquiries.

Posted 7/21/2016 6:46pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

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Farm News

The phrase “working up a sweat” has dignity.  On the farm, we usually break a sweat in daily chores; sprinting to get the grain into all the feeders, so that the kids don’t mob one feeder at a time.  Tossing flakes of hay into feeders, hauling buckets full of dirty then clean water, coaxing reluctant milkers into the milking parlor; these kinds of physical work merit sweat.  Dripping with sweat while standing on a hot blacktop parking lot waiting for customers to show up; this seemingly static activity does not earn you sweat in my book. 

The record combination of heat and humidity that engulfs most of the Midwest this week makes walking to the end of the driveway to get the paper or the mail a cause for sweat. This is not sweat earned by honest labor; it is survival sweat. When a typically hot kitchen filled with peaches and boiling pots of water for processing and rising dough and hot ovens for cracker making is cooler than the outside air, you appreciate the extreme nature of the heat wave.  Your body’s barometer for heat detection and your mind’s perceptions of hot and cool places become confused.  Standing over a warm vat of cheese curd in an air-conditioned creamery becomes a luxury. 

With a bare minimum of energy expenditure, you’re forced to change your clothes at least twice a day, and that’s not even to go into town.  We humans perspire; our goats, chickens and dogs pant. You play mind games to survive; you tell yourself it’s finite; you just keep on moving slowly, wiping your brow. 

Pickin’ Peaches                    

Our orchard is beautiful.  The pink-yellow-red peaches dangling against a backdrop of chartreuse green leaves is stunning. We have started picking peaches-we pick them, you can pick them.  The two varieties that are ripe right now-Reliance and Red Haven are my favorites.  If you want to come out to the farm for u-pick, please come either Monday or Thursday, 3-7 pm.  We will also be picking peaches to sell in our farm store and at the Urbana Farmers’ Market. 

The Real Stand: We have peaches, sweet corn, cheese, gelato (by the scoop and by the pint), Bane Family Meats, Piemonte Sausage and beautiful yarn from Seven Sisters Farm.  Hours are: Wednesday through Friday, 11-6, Saturday-Sunday 1-4 PM. 

CU Farmers:  If you don’t want to brave the heat on Saturday to attend the farmers’ market in Urbana, check out our offerings on Champaign-Urbana’s first and only multi-farm local food buying club.  Ordering opens on Friday mornings at 8 AM and closes the following Monday at 10 pm. Pick up is on Wednesdays from 4-6 at the University of IL Research Park-Caterpillar Building parking lot-1902 S. 1st Street. It’s a very civilized way to shop for local food with integrity. 

Farmers Markets We’re attending three markets this Saturday, July 23rd: Urbana’s Market at the Square, Green City Market and Downtown Bloomington Farmers’ Market. It will still be hot, so come prepared—bring a cooler with ice packs so you can take home cheese and gelato.  Looking for some cool cheese?

We’ve got:

  • Fresh chevre: plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper
  • Raw-milk feta aged in whey brine-this is THE cheese for a cool watermelon-feta salad Angel Food: firm, brie-style (really, it’s more like a crottin)
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie: our goat milk camembert-style cheese
  • Black Goat: this batch has little bit of wild blue on the rind, but it’s super delicious and slightly gooey
  • Moonglo: our raw-milk tomme,  think sharp like a cheddar (but fruity) and supple like a gouda
  • Magia Negra: this raw milk grating style cheese is like a marriage between Manchego and Swiss (lots of lovely nutty notes)
  • Goat Milk Yogurt: Our yogurt is a bit thin this time of year when the goat milk solids are low, but it is so wonderful paired with all the fresh berries in season right now-make a smoothy, go the savory route and use it to make a cool cucumber raita (Indian sauce)

Our gelato stocks are a little thin right now as our gelato maker is on vacation. Beat the heat and come early to grab a pint or two of:

  • Vanilla
  • Hazelnut
  • Salted Caramel Swirl
  • Raspberry Swirl
  • Red Currant
  • Stracciatella
August, September and October Farm to Table Meals are not to be missed. Check out the menus and make your reservations. They're booking up fast.  


Copyright 2016. Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery, LLC. 2016. All rights reserved. 4410 N. Lincoln Ave., Champaign, Illinois 61822 Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery, LLC is responsible for the content of this email. Please contact Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell with any inquiries.

Posted 7/14/2016 9:50pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

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Farm News

The anticipation is over. The aroma of peach-ness permeates the orchard. The lime green color of ripening fruit has faded to yellow with a blush of red.  Yes, there are a few blemishes: a little bit of sooty fly speck (bacterial disease) here, the ooze of oriental fruit moth larvae there. These cosmetic imperfections don’t deter me.  The slight indentation on the skin-when-pressed, signals that the fruit is ripe and rewarding inside. I take a bite. Juice drips down the chin; check. The explosion of floral notes and sweetness envelopes the mouth; check.  The afterglow of peach nirvana wafts into the nose and tells the brain that summer is peaking.  Peaches and goats; they’re why we’re here, after all. 

first peach

Market Happenings

Our Farm Store, “The Real Stand” continues to expand its repertoire of local products. We received our first ears of sweet corn from a neighboring sesquicentennial farm: sweet and tender, it’s is SOO fresh, you barely need to cook it to enjoy it (seriously, I ate some raw and it was DELICIOUS!).  We are expecting some jams and fruit leathers from Autumn Berry Inspired this weekend too.  We will be selling some peaches at the farm store tomorrow (Friday, 11-6) and bringing some to the Urbana Market at the Square on Saturday. The Farm Store is open Saturday-Sunday 1-4 PM THIS WEEKEND BECAUSE WE HAVE A FARM DINNER (SATURDAY) AND BRUNCH (SUNDAY).  PLEASE NOTE THE TIME CHANGE.

farm store is open

CU Farmers: Online ordering starts Friday at 8AM and closes the following Monday at 10 PM.  Pick up is Wednesday, the 20th from 4-6 PM in the Caterpillar Bldg. Parking Lot (1901 S. First Street, Champaign) if the weather is good; if it’s raining, we’ll set up inside the lobby of the Caterpillar Building. Blue Moon Farm has some GREAT summer veggies, we have cheese, gelato and yogurt and Bane Family Meats has eggs, chicken and meats. 

Saturday Farmers’ Markets: We’re doing three (yes, we’re crazy) markets: Downtown Bloomington, Urbana’s Market at the Square and Chicago’s Green City Market.  Here’s what we’re bringing for cheese:

  • Fresh chevre: plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper
  • Fresh ricotta: This is the last batch for the season, so if you love it, come get it early
  • Goat milk Feta: Our raw—milk feta is aged for at least 60 days in a complex whey brine. This gives the firm and crumbly cheeses a distinct tangy flavor.  Give it a try.
  • Angel Food: Our firm “brie” like bloomy is made in the style of a crottin (for those who know French cheeses). It’s perfect for a summer picnic or an evening snack on your patio or deck.
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie: perfectly gooey exterior, firm paste in the center-the quintessential bloomy rind
  • Black Goat: The latest batch is super yummy-slightly gooey edge and not super funky yet
  • Moonglo:  Our raw milk tomme is semi-firm, which means you can slice it, melt it or shave it.  Sharp and slightly fruity, it’s delicious
  • Magia Negra: Our raw milk Manchego-style grating cheese eliminates the need for you to buy expensive parmesano Reggiano or a romano-type cheese to make your pesto.
  • Plain Goat Milk Yogurt: as always, just milk and live cultures—plain and simple (and delicious)

You will NEED gelato this weekend:

  • Raspberry Swirl (made with raspberries from Avery Farm)
  • Salted Caramel Swirl
  • Strawberry (very limited)
  • Red Currant (made with currants from the Savannah Institute)
  • Stracciatella (fancy chocolate ganache chip)
  • Spiced Butter Pecan (very limited)
  • Fresh Mint
  • Vanilla
  • Hazelnut
  • Nectarine Sorbetto (several customers have marveled at the true nectarine taste-it’s like biting into frozen nectarines)

Farm Dinners: Reservations are starting to fill up for the remainder of our “Dinners on the Farm” Series with both Sunday Dinner Club and Paul Virant and Friends. I know many of you think that all the dinners are sold out, but I’m here to tell you they are NOT.  Visit our web page, peruse the menus and dinner descriptions and book your reservations NOW.  Yes, they may seem pricey, but they’re more than just a meal; they’re an experience you will remember long after your digestive system has absorbed all the nutrients.  


Copyright 2016. Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery, LLC. 2016. All rights reserved. 4410 N. Lincoln Ave., Champaign, Illinois 61822 Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery, LLC is responsible for the content of this email. Please contact Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell with any inquiries.

Posted 7/11/2016 10:04am by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

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For those of you who live in or near Champaign-Urbana, we've got some great opportunities coming up early this week for local foods. 
First, CUFarmers.com: our multi-farmer online buying club. Ordering ends at 10PM tonight, so go to the website TODAY to order veggies (Blue Moon Farm), cheese & gelato (Prairie Fruits Farm) and meats, poultry and eggs (Bane Family Meats). Also note that our pick up location in the Research Park has changed to the Catepillar parking lot-Caterpillar building parking lot (1901 South 1st Street) Wednesdays from 4-6pm.

Second: The Land Connection's Downtown Champaign Farmers' Market-Tuesday, 4-7PM. We will be there with a great selection of cheese, yogurt and gelato.

Third: Our Farm Store "The Real Stand."  We will be open this week, Wednesday through Friday 11-6. Weekend hours are changing: SATURDAY-SUNDAY 1-4. We're bringing in fresh-from-the-field SWEET CORN from a neighboring farm called "Sweet Pickins" The farmers' grand-daughter will be here on Wednesday from 11-2 PM to meet our customers and sell you some sweet corn. Come out and meet her.  We also have our regular dairy products, gelato by the scoop, meats, poultry and eggs from Bane Family Meats, yarn from Seven Sisters Farm and sausages from Piemonte Sausage Co.  

SEE, lots of ways to get the best food in central IL!

 


Copyright 2016. Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery, LLC. 2016. All rights reserved. 4410 N. Lincoln Ave., Champaign, Illinois 61822 Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery, LLC is responsible for the content of this email. Please contact Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell with any inquiries.

Posted 7/8/2016 9:40am by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

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Farm News

About a week and a half ago, we adopted a new dog. She’s an old new dog with a lot of recent tragedy in her life.  Despite her age (somewhere between 11-13-no one really knows as she was rescued at the Humane Society), she’s bright and light on her feet.  Everyone believes that farms are a dog’s paradise-ample room to roam free, millions of pheromones to stimulate their sensitive noses, tall vegetation on which they can mark their scent and lots and lots of ways to get really dirty and stinky. From a dog owner’s perspective, farm dogs can do their daily business wherever they like (for the most part) and there’s no need to follow behind with a pooper scooper. 

Despite the upheaval in her recent life, she was adapting remarkably well to our farm within a few days of arrival.  She was curious about the goats. She seemed to like the frequent visitors to the farm and all the new people in her life. She and Blue seemed to have a tepid understanding (although Blue, being an only dog, did not take well to a new canine in the family) with occasional spats over who would go through a door first or garner the affections of their owners. 

After several days, we let her off leash. She discovered the “pond” (aka the borrow pit) and would sneak off for a dip several times a day. She always came when called and mostly wanted to hang around us.  So, last Saturday, when we went outside to do the night chores (closing up the chickens, checking on the goats, flipping some cheese), she came with us. There were rumblings of fireworks off in the distance, but she didn’t seem too bothered by them. I knew she had intense thunderstorm anxiety, so I watched her closely as the booms and crackles sounded.  She headed toward the chicken coop, while I went into the cheeserie. When I came out ten minutes later, she wasn’t with Wes. We called for her and she didn’t come. I went to the pond calling for her, since that had become her new favorite spot—no sign.  Flashlights in hand, we split up to walk the farm and roads, calling for her-still no sign.  After two hours of walking and calling, we suspended the search, convinced we would find her with day light. 

We spent most of Sunday, under steady rainfall, searching wider and wider areas around our farm neighborhood, enlisting help from friends, attempting to call the sheriff’s office and animal control (they are closed on weekends and holidays), the Humane Society; no one was open on a holiday weekend. We even had friends go back to her old neighborhood in Urbana to see if somehow she found her way back there: nothing.  With Monday being a holiday, I cast the search net wider-more friends, Facebook dog rescue pages, posting signs around the local roads, more driving, more calling, more searching.  Feelings of helplessness, regret (should have had her on a leash longer, shouldn’t have let her out at night), fear (that harm would have come to her, that she would be hungry and confused), guilt (we had barely had her for a week and now she was in another very traumatic situation) overwhelmed me.  She had trusted us to take care of her and heal her emotional wounds, and now we had lost her. 

All I could do was wait until Tuesday morning to call Animal Control to see if someone had found her.  Tuesday morning, I made the call.  I gave her description to the woman on the phone. She went back to look. “Yes, she’s here,” the woman said. She was picked up Saturday night (several miles from our farm) and brought in Sunday morning.  I couldn’t believe my ears; she had not been wandering in confusing cornfields for days, cold, wet and dehydrated.  She was a in a strange kennel with lots of other barking dogs. I rushed to get her out of there.  She’s been back home for several days now, readjusted to her new life as a farm dog, on leash for a while longer.  She sleeps on the bed or on the couch, curled in a ball. We are all relieved. 

oona dog

Market News We’re attending three markets this Saturday (July 9th): Urbana, Bloomington and Green City Market and the Tuesday Land Connection Market (July 11th). We are flush with some great cheese:

  • Fresh chevre: plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper
  • Fresh ricotta-better get it while it lasts-we may not be making it much longer if the heat lowers milk production
  • Goat milk Feta: YES! It’s back. Our new version is made with raw milk and aged for 60 days in a whey brine. It’s creamy-crumbly in texture with a nice tangy taste. Perfect for your tomato basil salad
  • Angel Food: little crottin-style bloomy rind cheese
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie: camembert-style goat round
  • Black Goat: ash-ripened bloomy, this batch has a little bit of wild blue mold on the rind-don’t be alarmed; it’s delicious. 
  • Moonglo: our raw milk tomme—perfect cheese for a fancy grilled cheese sandwich
  • Magia Negra: with pesto season upon us, this is your local alternative to parmesan
  • Goat Milk Yogurt: plain and simple—pints and quarts

Gelato? We’ve got that too (not all flavors are going to all markets)

  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Hazelnut
  • Honey Lavender
  • Red Currant
  • Raspberry Swirl
  • Stracciatella
  • Tart Cherry Amaretto
  • Spiced Butter Pecan
  • Local Strawberry (limited)
  • Nectarine Sorbetto

Farm Store: The Real Stand

We’re open for visitors and local food shoppers. Hours are Wednesday-Friday, 11-6 and Saturday-Sunday, 10-4. Sunday, the 17th, we have a farm brunch from 10-12, so our hours will be limited to 1:00-4:00 that day (and any Sunday that we have a brunch scheduled). In addition to our cheeses, gelato and goat milk soaps, we have products from Bane Family Meats (eggs, poultry, beef and pork), sausages from Piemonte Sausage Co. (pork and chicken), yarn from Leichester wool-Seven Sisters Farm AND starting next week (Thursday or Friday), we will have LOCAL SWEET CORN!!

CUFarmers is back on line, after taking a week off. Ordering started this morning and runs through next Monday at 10pm.  Check out the great products from Blue Moon Farm, Bane Family Meats and Prairie Fruits Farm. If you work or live in Southwest Champaign—this local foods buying club makes it EASY for you to get some of the best local foods in our area. We are moving our pick up location within the U of I Research Park to 1901 South 1st Street (Catepillar Building Parking lot), Champaign, 61820. We will be set up outside when the weather is good, and inside the Catepillar Building when the weather is bad. Pick up time stays the same: Wednesdays from 4-6 pm

Farm Dinners/Brunches: All dates are open for ticket purchase now. We still have plenty of seats open for the July 17th “big steak” brunch.  How could you resist steak and eggs or biscuits with red-eye gravy?? 


Copyright 2016. Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery, LLC. 2016. All rights reserved. 4410 N. Lincoln Ave., Champaign, Illinois 61822 Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery, LLC is responsible for the content of this email. Please contact Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell with any inquiries.

Posted 6/30/2016 7:25pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

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Farm News

In this country, we celebrate the rugged individual, the “self-made man,” the “every man (or woman) is an island.”  We host parades, ignite massive quantities of colorful explosives and stuff our faces with burgers, sweet corn and cherry pie; all to glorify the independent spirit upon which our country’s values were founded. On the eve of our country’s independence, I’d like to celebrate dependence. 

As farmers, we depend on so many things: the natural world, our livestock, our neighboring farmers.  We depend on the soil to grow our crops. We depend on pollinating insects to turn flowers into fruit. We are at the mercy of the weather’s whim to give us rain or no rain, heat or not so much heat.  We depend on our goats to be healthy, eat lots of forage and provide us with plentiful and delicious milk.  We depend on our dogs to keep predators at bay and eat the occasional rodent (and lagomorph) pests.  We depend on our neighbors to grow the grains and hay that we can’t grow for lack of land. 

It goes against our American nature to embrace dependence.  It’s often construed as a sign of weakness or failure.  I reject this tenet of American-ness. I believe that a farmer’s dependence on the things and beings over which we have so little control embodies strength.  In fact, we derive humility and great satisfaction in identifying the strands that tie us to such a complex web of dependence.  Happy in-dependence day!

Other Farm News

Our neighbors have started to harvest the wheat field to the south of our farm.  While they’ll sell the grain on the open market, we’ll be buying all the straw.  I’ll miss the view of amber waves of grain outside my window, but I’ll think of that beautiful wheat field every time we re-bed our goat barns with fresh straw. The goat girls will thank them too. Even the old gals love a good roll in the straw when it’s freshly spread. 

The last of May-birth kids will be weaned tomorrow; transitioning from their dependence on milk replacer to dependence on grain and hay.  They haven’t been super interested in milk replacer over the past couple of weeks, but I noticed them chugging on the self-feeder nipples this evening. Maybe they suspect something is up. 

Our farm store “The Real Stand” opens tomorrow-July 1st. We will be open from 11-6 on Friday and 10-4 on Saturday and Sunday of this holiday weekend. While we don’t have all things in place yet, we have enough to make the trip to the farm worthwhile.  We’ve created a mulch path with signs around the farm so people can explore on their own. We’re working on a play area for kids—giant hay piles to climb on, hammocks and swings in the trees.  Of course, guests can still walk through the kid barn and visit with the goats.  U-pick peach season will begin in about three weeks.  The farm store will have cheese, gelato, meats, poultry, eggs from Bane Family meats, sausages from Piemonte Sausage Co.  We have beautiful spun yarn from Seven Sisters Farm. We’ll be adding more farmers’ products as time goes on.  Stay tuned. Need directions? CLICK HERE

Farmers’ Market News

We’re attending three markets this Saturday, July 2nd: Urbana’s Market at the Square, Chicago’s Green City Market and Downtown Bloomington’s Farmers’ Market.  The forecast is calling for unseasonably cool and sunny weather—PERFECT for shopping at the markets and stocking up on GREAT local foods for your holiday weekend gustatory celebrations.  Need cheese? We’ve got that:

  • Fresh chevre: plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper
  • Fresh ricotta (check out the two new recipes I’ve posted on our website for ricotta—one sweet with seasonal peaches, one savory-both really simple and quick). 
  • Angel Food: firm “brie” or crottin style
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie: perfectly ripe camembert style
  • Black Goat: this batch is begging to be put on the bun that will house your burger
  • Moonglo: raw-milk, semi-firm, complex, simply yummy
  • Magia Negra: try it in place of parmesan if you’re making pesto this weekend
  • Goat milk yogurt: use it as a marinade for chicken or pork, make an herbed ‘crema’ with our yogurt and drizzle over grilled veggies, OR just serve it with some of those glorious berries that are plentiful at the markets right now

You will NEED Gelato to go with whatever desserts you're making this weekend (NOTE: not all flavors going to all markets):

  • Salted Caramel Swirl
  • Spiced Butter Pecan
  • Amaretto Cherry
  • Red Currant
  • Honey Lavender
  • Fresh Mint
  • Local Strawberry
  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Hazelnut

Farm Dinners: Don’t forget to check out the latest round of farm dinner themes for August through October.  They’re gonna be GREAT, so book your reservations NOW (you’re probably already on vacation, so you should have plenty of time to look over the themes and splurge on some tickets.  The meals are not just about the great food—you get to experience great food surrounded by the beauty of our farm.   

 


Copyright 2016. Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery, LLC. 2016. All rights reserved. 4410 N. Lincoln Ave., Champaign, Illinois 61822 Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery, LLC is responsible for the content of this email. Please contact Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell with any inquiries.

Posted 6/23/2016 7:36pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

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 Farm News

The phrase “build it and they will come” is so overused, I thought hard before invoking it this week. After wrestling with the cliché police and shoving their reprimands back into the recesses of my brain, I decided to go for it. The “build it” refers to the “borrow pit” that was dug last year in the field south of our farm.  For those not familiar with the term, “borrow pit” refers to the giant hole dug in the ground (in our case, it’s about 8 acres) so that the excavated soil can be used to build overpasses in new road construction.  Since the infamous “Olympian Drive” project required a bridge spanning five sets of railroad tracks, the pit created was especially wide and deep.  The amazing thing about digging a hole in flat prairie country is that the shallow groundwater rushes in to fill the void. 

Not too long after water started seeping in, the water-loving creatures started to migrate in (this is the “they will come” part). Of course, you would expect to see Canada geese.  They arrived last fall. Our response to the appearance of geese: ambivalence.  While lovely to watch as they fly in formation or gracefully descend onto the still water surface, the mess they leave behind (baby geese, lots and lots of goose poop) is less attractive.  Early this spring, we started to hear the buzz and hum of amphibians-frogs and toads. Upon investigation (Wes with Blue, the dog in tow), found hundreds of tadpoles swimming along the pond’s edge.  Now, as the sun sets, and the strawberry moon of summer solstice rises, the low-pitched and trilling frog songs fill the still air; the din is deafening, in a good way.  As much as I hate to ascribe any benefit to this “borrow pit,” the new sounds of aquatic life have enriched the diversity of our little prairie farm.

Summer didn’t wait for solstice this year-we’ve been in the thick of hot and steamy weather for over a week now.  When you start the day at 6:30 am with 80 degrees and 90% humidity, it’s hard to convince yourself that being outside is good for your soul. The goats spend their mornings in the shade of tall pasture, then, they come back to the barn for an afternoon siesta in the shade (although all the fans do is blow hot air around the barn).  We try to coax them to eat, to keep up their milk production, but they don’t want to expend too much energy. The evenings don’t provide too much relieve either-last night, I went out to give the girls a late night snack of alfalfa bailage and came back into the house drenched with sweat; lots of cool showers and air conditioning—the only way to a good night’s sleep. 

Farmers’ Markets

Downtown Bloomington, here we come.  I will be attending Downtown Bloomington’s Farmers’ Market this Saturday, June 25th, along with my cheese monger in training, David. The market runs from 7:30 to 12, and our stand will be located next PrairiErth Farm.  So, Bloomington-Normal folks: come out and taste some cheese and gelato.  Wes will be manning our stand in Urbana (Urbana’s Market at the Square), while Rey will be slinging the cheese at Green City Market in Chicago.  Next Tuesday, June 28th, we’ll be at The Land Connection’s Downtown Champaign Market (hey Champaign-we need to see some market patrons at this market—it’s an easy afternoon market—no crowds, great local foods-please support it).  Here’s what we’re bringing:

  • Fresh chevre: plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper
  • Fresh ricotta—this fresh cheese is PERFECT for a cool summer salad
  • Angel Food: crottin-style
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie: this batch is especially ooey-gooey bloomy deliciousness
  • Black Goat: delicate and tangy
  • Moonglo: try melting it on a burger
  • Magia Negra: use it in place of parmesan for a summer pesto
  • Whole Milk Yogurt: just milk and live cultures, nothing more, so delicious

Gelato-so many great local flavors this time of year:

  • Red Currant
  • Tart Cherry Stracciatella
  • Spiced Butter Pecan
  • Salted Caramel Swirl
  • Local Strawberry
  • Aronia Berry
  • Honey Lavender
  • Fresh Mint
  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate 
  • Hazelnut

If you can’t make it to the markets, consider our on-line multi-farmer buying club: CUFarmers. It’s an easy, convenient way to get your hands on fresh, organic vegetables, pastured meats and eggs and “Animal Welfare Approved” goat dairy products. 

Extreme Farm to Table: It’s what’s for dinner. I like to think that our “Dinners on the Farm” embody extreme “farm-to-table” dining. After all, you are literally dining on a working farm. Moreover, we source most of the ingredients featured on the menu from local farms in central Illinois. We even invite some of them to dine with our guests. Our collaboration with the chefs of Sunday Dinner Club-SDC (aka Honey Butter Fried Chicken)-Josh, Christine and Becca is going really well, with two months of meals under our belts. We have a few seats left for the July “Big Steak” brunch (dinner is sold out), but the hottest news is that the August-October meal tickets have just gone on sale through the SDC Events web page. 

SDC team

Check out the themes, menus and then click on the TOCK button to book your reservations. 

Lavender Fields are growing in Central IL: Twin Silos Farm is owned and operated by Terry and Terry Hayden. They will hold their "First Annual Lavender U-Pick" Festival on June 25-26 from 9-5 each day. The festival features 2000 lavender plants and 10 varieties for U-Pick ($5 small and $7 large bundles), a bee presentation Saturday at 2 p.m., and photo opportunities. They’ll be serving a special treat during the lavender festival:  "Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery  honey-lavender gelato” made with Twin Silos Farm's honey and lavender. Admission is free. The farm is located at 1090 Bucks Pond Road, Monticello, IL, just off of interstate 72, (take exit 172, IL 10/Clinton exit, head toward Clinton, left on 1100 E/Bucks Pond Road, third house on the right). If you are using your GPS, please put in Randy’s Road. The satellite coordinates see the farm driveway as Randy’s Road, Monticello, IL. Visit us on Facebook, www.facebook.com/TwinSilosFarm.MonticelloIL


Copyright 2016. Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery, LLC. 2016. All rights reserved. 4410 N. Lincoln Ave., Champaign, Illinois 61822 Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery, LLC is responsible for the content of this email. Please contact Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell with any inquiries.

Posted 6/16/2016 10:49pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

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Farm News

I have been taken with the local history that underlies our farm for some time.  Perhaps as an outsider and a city person, I am more intrigued by the rugged rural ancestors of my neighbors than my neighbors themselves (it’s just family stories to them, after all).  Up the road from our farm, across from the Leverett grain elevator, there once stood a stately stone building that housed a general store, over 100 years ago.  Having only seen general stores in the movies or on old western tv shows, I became fascinated with the idea of a general store in my “neighborhood.”

Before the property changed hands a few years ago, we got a chance to walk through this dilapidated building, looking for old relics, secretly hoping to score some farm implement that would garner attention on Antiques Road Show.  The bones of the building were still there; hidden under layers of dust, holes in the walls and cracks in the floors—the stone frame, the old-growth timbers, the ghosts of the store clerks and patrons creaking on the loose floor planks.  I imagined recreating a general store for the modern era.  What would it look like, what goods would it carry?  The idea of a general store focused on local foods and local crafts seemed especially poignant.  I became convinced (some say obsessed) this was a brilliant idea and that some clever, local entrepreneur (with deep pockets) would buy this little property (with a very charming, but falling down farm house and few ancient apple trees) and bring my vision to fruition. After all, it is less than two miles from both major interstates (I-57 and I-74). From time to time, I would mention this little “hidden gem” of a property to folks who I thought surely would jump at the idea and make it a reality. 

When the property finally sold, we met the new owners, and I was thrilled to discover that they saw value in the old general store and they were considering turning it into some kind of inn or dining establishment (or maybe it was a brew pub).  A year or so went by, and I discovered that the building had sustained a fire, leaving the south-facing front completely exposed (somehow the stone bricks had fallen off the face).  The charred state left me wondering how this would impact the new owners’ grand plans for renovation.  Nothing transpired for another few months, and then a couple of weeks ago, I was driving by (on my way to the Lavender Farm) and saw the building collapsed in a pile of rubble.  I know it seems silly to have developed feelings for this building (it never belonged to me or anyone I knew or cared about), but the sight of stones and wood and plaster in a jumbled mess shot pangs of sadness to my core.  The grief I feel comes from history obliterated and bull-dozed aside. Yet, I also feel sad that my dream of an old general store, reborn as new general store, highlighting the bounty our little flat region has to offer, got buried in the rubble pile. 

Other Farm News The density of fire flies is astounding this summer.  I don’t know if it’s the weather, our little farm’s habitat oasis or the alignment of the stars (they create their own starry sky), but we’re having a fire fly population explosion this year.  They’re lighting up the trees in the orchard, they’re hovering over our senescing wheat patch and they’re signaling for mates in the tall grasses of our pasture.  I feel privileged to witness it every evening.  I took a little video which captures some of the magic (check it out on our Facebook page); honestly, it doesn’t do them justice. 

The Real Stand: Farm Store at Prairie Fruits Farm: While my dream of an old general store reborn will not come to fruition, we are working away at getting our farm and store together for its “grand opening.” We are hoping to be open the first weekend in July. We may not have all the products stocked or the farm looking as grand as we’d like, but it should be close enough for folks to come out. Stay tuned for forthcoming details in the coming weeks.

Next round of farm dinner/brunch tickets to go on sale next week:   The August through October Farm to Table dinners and brunch tickets will go on sale next WEDNESDAY, JUNE 22ND AT 10:00 AM.  I will be posting the menus for these meals on our website and the link to Sunday Dinner Club’s TOCK page early next week.  In the meantime, we still have seats open for the July “Big Steak” brunch on Sunday, July 17th.  For you last-minute Charlie’s, there are still some seats left for this Saturday’s Mexican dinner.  It’s gonna be great, so grab the mouse to your computer and click away. 

CU Farmers: Our multi-farmer local food buying club is gaining traction slowly. We want to make sure folks who work and/or live in southwest Champaign know that they can consider this portal an alternative (or supplement) to shopping at the farmers’ markets or the grocery stores that might carry local foods (although right now, there aren’t any in southwest Champaign).  It’s an easy way to access the freshest, highest quality local foods (with integrity to boot) in our area.  We are working to improve the patron’s experience on our website and we may be moving our pick up location to a more prominent spot in the U of I Research Park (off First Street). We will let folks know about these changes as soon as they firm up. On line ordering for pick up next week (June 22nd) starts tomorrow at 8AM.  Check it out.

Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery is coming to the Downtown Bloomington Farmers’ Market: After a several-year hiatus, we’ve decided to return to the Saturday Downtown Bloomington Farmers’ Market. Our first Saturday will be June 25th. Our booth will be right next to PrairiErth Farm. Stay tuned for more details next week.

Farmers’ Markets for June 18th

We’re attending both Urbana’s Market at the Square and Chicago’s Green City Market this coming Saturday, June 18th. It’s father’s day weekend, and you’re probably thinking that cheese is NOT the gift for the dads in your life. Well, think again! Many of our patrons are dads, and I know they have some favorites of our cheeses:

  • Fresh chevre: plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper
  • Fresh ricotta
  • Angel Food
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie (lots of dads LOVE this cheese)
  • Black Goat (they love this one too)
  • Moonglo-some folks consider this complex firm cheese similar to cheddar or sharp gouda—both of which men seem to love
  • Magia Negra: we have limited quantities of this nutty grating style cheese, so if you want it, come early
  • Goat Milk Yogurt: lots of guys love the simplicity of our yogurt, especially guys who like to cook

If cheese isn’t your dad’s favorite food group, I know you can wow him with our goat milk gelato:

  • Tart cherry stracciatella
  • Buttered, spicy pecan
  • Local Strawberry
  • Aronia Berry
  • Honey Lavender
  • Plum Sorbetto
  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Hazelnut

We will also have our goat milk soaps for sale (yes, guys like to be clean too and even have soft smooth skin).   


Copyright 2016. Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery, LLC. 2016. All rights reserved. 4410 N. Lincoln Ave., Champaign, Illinois 61822 Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery, LLC is responsible for the content of this email. Please contact Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell with any inquiries.

Posted 6/9/2016 10:39pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

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Farm News 

The juxtaposition of lavender and corn fields is jarring, especially if your mind is transported to Provence when conjuring lavender.  I think this is what draws me to this little patch of foreign-ness every June.  “Sharp’s Crossing Lavender Farm,” off Highway 45 in rural Urbana on the way to Rantoul, seems like such an unlikely place for a field of purple peacefulness.  It is surrounded by hard-core cash-grain agriculture and shadowed by a cell phone tower, no less.  Yet, when you walk out into the lavender plantings and crouch down low, you could swear that you are in a Mediterranean landscape familiar to the likes of Van Gough. 

lavender fields

The bees buy into the story; they are busy hovering from blossom to blossom, collecting nectar.  I like to bury my face in the mounds of flowers so I can surround my nose with the calming scent.  The whiz of cars passing by on the highway fades; eclipsed by the rustle of the stems in the prairie wind.  I take this annual journey partly for the spiritual elements it imparts, but I’m also on a mission -to collect lavender flowers for our lavender-honey gelato. 

The winter was kind to the lavender patch this year, and the plants have never looked better (at least in the few years that I have been going out there); the multitudes of stems are loaded with flower buds.  The farm owner is kind enough to let me pick before fans descend on the patch for her annual “Lavender Festival” (June 17-19th this year).  They will benefit from my early foraging; we are making pans of lavender-honey gelato for her to serve at the festival this year. 

CSA enticement, CU Farmers, Farm to Table Meals

Our Cheese and Gelato CSA members are enjoying the benefits of membership this year, as we are making “members only” cheeses for them. This week, we created a fresh chevre with a dollop of “ramp jam.” Made with ramps from Cow Creek Farm, this sweet-savory concoction pairs perfectly with the fresh chevre.  So, if you’re not currently a member of our cheese and gelato CSA, you might consider signing up. We are still taking members at a pro-rated level (10 pick-ups left for the season). 

ramp jam with chevre

CUFarmers: Our multi-farm buying club is underway and we WANT MORE MEMBERS!! If you work or live near the University of Illinois Research Park, this pre-ordering and pick up system is an easy way to get fresh organic veggies, pastured meat & poultry (and eggs) and Animal Welfare Approved cheese and gelato EVERY WEDNESDAY (4-6 PM).  Check out our website and sign up. Ordering for next week starts Friday morning at 8AM.

Last call for the Mexican Farm Dinner tickets: Saturday, June 18th! This meal is going to knock your socks off! With pastured pork from Bane Family Meats as the center piece and strawberry gelato to cleanse your pallet at the end, you won’t be disappointed.  We also have a few seats left for the “Big Steak” brunch on Sunday, July 17th.  Click HERE for details. 

A Farmer's Road is coming to Urbana. The Urbana Free Library is hosting a screening of the documentary film about our farm on Sunday, June 12th at 1:30 pm. We'll be sampling some cheese and gelato as part of the event. Come and meet the film-maker, John Murray, who spent five years filming and editing this feature-length documentary film. 

Farmers’ Market Offerings

We’re attending Urbana’s Market at the Square and Chicago’s Green City Market on Saturday, June 11th. We will also be attending The Land Connection’s downtown Champaign Farmers’ Market on Tuesday, June 14th (4-7 pm). The forecast is calling for some heat, so come prepared to the market with coolers and ice packs (especially if you don’t want your gelato to melt before you get home). We have a full house of cheese offerings:

  • Fresh chevre: plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper
  • Fresh ricotta Angel Food (very limited quantities)
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie
  • Black Goat
  • Magia Negra
  • Moonglo
  • Whole Milk Yogurt

We have fantastic new local flavors of gelato including:

  • Local Strawberry
  • Aronia Berry
  • Plum Sorbetto
  • Lavender-Honey
  • Fresh Mint
  • Salted Caramel Swirl

As well as the delicious standards:

  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Hazelnut

We just got in a fresh batch of our goat milk soaps (made lovingly by Red Barn Farm), so if you’re feeling dirty, come pick up a few bars. Types include: Simply Soap, White Tea & Whey, Thyme for Roses, Spring Thyme, Prairie Lavender, Oatmeal Scrub, Crazy for Lemon.


Copyright 2016. Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery, LLC. 2016. All rights reserved. 4410 N. Lincoln Ave., Champaign, Illinois 61822 Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery, LLC is responsible for the content of this email. Please contact Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell with any inquiries.