Welcome to Leslie's Blog.
Posted 7/14/2011 9:57pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
For the most part, we relish the hands-on nature of our cheese making operation. We pride ourselves on hand crafting each and every batch of cheese we produce. In fact, our hands (gloved of course) touch the cheeses many times before we deliver them into your hands. There is a "dark side" of making small batches of artisan cheeses; however: the amount of dirty dishes we generate.  I often tell folks who want to make cheese that it is 20% cheese making and 80% cleaning and dish washing. Up until yesterday, we would wash all of the cheese making implements by hand and then run them through a commercial dish washer (to sanitize them for the most part).  This would typically take several hours per day to accomplish. Yesterday, we installed a brand new 150-gallon wash tank known as a COP ("clean out of place" for those of you who want to know what the acronym stands for). It is tank with powerful jets that force out all those little pieces of cheese curd or white mold off our cheese forms and our aging mats. Once we have worked out all the details, this should reduce our washing time tremendously and improve the quality of life for our cheese makers. We just have to resist the temptation to sneak in the bubble bath and jump into the tank ourselves. Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery might just become Prairie Fruits Farm and Spa!

On to the farmers' markets. We're attending THREE markets this Saturday, July 16th: Urbana, Green City Market and Oak Park. We've got plenty of wonderful cheeses for you:
  • Fresh Chevre--plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper
  • Angel Food
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie
  • Black Sheep
  • Krotovina
  • Moonglo-yes, it's back and we will have plenty for you
  • Mollisol Pecorino
there may be a few others if we decide they are ready to sell
For Urbana Market goers, our gelato offerings are sure to keep you cool:
  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Strawberry-Rhubarb sorbetto
  • Blueberry
  • Banana

Don't forget to come out and visit us on Tuesday afternoons from 3-7PM.  It may be hot, but what better way to cool off than to savor some gelato or sorbetto while visiting the goats.
Posted 7/11/2011 8:24pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Greetings from central Illinois' sauna.  What better way to cool off than to come out to our farm tomorrow afternoon from 3-7PM to buy some gelato and sorbetto.  But wait, there's more: cheeses of many kinds, breads and cookies from Pekara Bakehouse AND cool veggies from Blue Moon Farm. Blue Moon has their pre-orders AND they're bringing additional veggies as well. They will only be here from 3-5PM so come early.  You can see the goats try to beat the heat too!
Posted 7/8/2011 7:49am by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

Moonglo cheese
We know it's truly summer when we taste the Moonglo and decide that it is ripe enough for sale. This is the weekend. We'll be attending three farmers' markets on Saturday, July 9th: Urbana, Bloomington and Oak Park, and we cut several wheels of this firm and tangy cheese for you to enjoy. It tastes great with a tart jam (how about making some jam with all the local raspberries or cherries that are beginning to appear at the farmers' markets?) and some crusty bread.
We've got lots of other cheeses for our market goers this Saturday as well:
  • plenty of fresh chevre
  • Angel Food
  • Smoked Angel Food--it's back--the applewood smoked brie style cheese
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie
  • Ewe Bloom
  • BABY ewe bloom (bite sized rounds perfect for topping a salad)
  • Black Sheep
  • BABY black sheep (same deal as baby ewe bloom--you can eat it almost in one bite)
  • Huckleberry Blue--our raw goat milk blue, supply is limited so enjoy it while it lasts
  • Mollisol Pecorino--our raw sheep milk grating style cheese

We have LOTS of gelato and sorbetto for the Urbana Farmers' Market goers--lots of new fruit flavors to try.  Wes and Stewart got a little carried away with their "experiments" this week.  We've all taste tested them (of course), and they're all really delicious.

Things are really picking up with our Tuesday afternoon mini-farmers' market-open house (3 to 7PM). This coming Tuesday, July 12th, we'll have plenty of cheese and gelato for you as well as Pekara Bakehouse goodies. Blue Moon Farm's bounty is flourishing, so they've resumed their pre-ordering system to ensure that they pick just the right amount of fresh produce for this mid-week market. They plan to be at our farm only from 3-5PM, so please come early if you want veggies. To access their ordering system, go to:
They will also bring extra of the following:
Salad mix

Posted 6/30/2011 10:06pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
It's hard to believe we've arrived at the weekend of fourth of july already.  The rhythm of the spring and early summer has been as rapid as a beebop jazz tune--dizzying.  I know that we're entering full blown summer because the fire flies have been lighting up the early evening skies and the wind is blowing just a bit more gently than it does in the spring.  The sun is taking its sweet time descending into the evening sky and leaving a shockingly reddish orange hue in its wake.
This fourth of july weekend promises to cook up our typical hot and steamy Midwestern summer, so w
e're loading up the coolers for the farmers' market with cheese.  We often associate fourth of july with meat and grills, but what better way to accompany those steaks or burgers or chicken thighs than with some gooey bloomy rind cheese or slathering on some fresh chevre on the bun. 
This Saturday, July 2nd, we're attending THREE farmers' markets: Urbana, Oak Park and Chicago's Green City Market. 
We've got a great line up of cheeses:

  • Fresh chevre--the usual suspects of plain, herbs de Provence and cracked peppercorn
  • Fresh sheep milk ricotta--it's so fresh and light--how about drizzling it with some local honey and topping it with some fresh berries??
  • Sheep milk feta--now's the time to get some of those early hot house tomatoes& cukes and make a beautiful greek salad with our rich feta
  • Angel Food--nice and gooey
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie-dense, creamy and would be great lightly grilled along side those burgers---try topping it with some caramelized onions or onion jam!
  • Ewe Bloom--we have our triangles as well as the little baby baba blooms--perfect for a crostini appetizer
  • Black Sheep-also in "baby" size as well as our regular rounds--gotta love the ash
  • Huckleberry Blue-our very piquant (if you love blue cheese, you'll get your money's worth with this one) raw goat milk blue--also great on a burger (notice a theme here??)

For our Urbana Farmers' Market customers, we've got a great lineup:
  • Simply Vanilla
  • Luscious Chocolate
  • Nocciola (Hazelnut)
  • Sicilian Pistacchio
  • Honey Chevre
  • Local Strawberry
  • Strawberry-Rhubarb Sorbetto

Tuesday Farm Sales-Open House
Thanks to those of you have ventured out to our on-farm sale on Tuesday afternoons.  We continue to grow each week in customers and diversity of offerings. This coming Tuesday, July 5th, we'll have our very own cheeses and gelato (and probably soem things out of our garden). We'll also welcome back Pekara Bakehouse with their artisan breads, cookies and pastries. Blue Moon Farm will be here as well. They are reinstating their pre-ordering system so they can make sure to bring the right amount of produce. To place your order by Monday, July 4th, please go to their order form: or Order Form
Lastly, we'll have a very special guest farmer, a maple syrup maker from Ohio called "Sticky Pete's."  Here's some information about how they sell their maple syrup and their farm.  This is a one time offer, so come out and get some great maple syrup:
"The sizes I sell at the market are 8oz-$7.50, 12oz-$9.50, 16oz-$13.00 and I may be able to bring some quarts, but not sure.  I also have some fancy leaf bottles large, medium and small which make terrific gifts, they range in size from 8.45oz, 3.5oz and 1.7oz and are more pricey because of the bottles.  Sticky Petes is a 1500 tap sugarbush situated in southeastern Ohio in the foothills of the Appalachians.  Began in 1996 by John Berry and Laura McManus and their faithful dog Pete.  Our label is a tribute to Pete who carefully watched over the process, from gathering sap in the woods in early spring, to boiling in the sugarhouse, to bottling our delicious golden amber on its way to the market.  Our syrup is handcrafted and we are committed to making your day naturally sweeter!"
Posted 6/27/2011 6:34pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Greetings Local Food Lovers:
Tomorrow's on-farm sales will feature lots of treats:
  • Plenty of cheese--chevre, some bloomies, some huckleberry blue and pecorino
  • Plenty of gelato--Wes and Stewart are concocting some special flavors for you to try; also we've made our first ever goat milk gelato-chocolate chip cookie sandwiches--very limited quantity, so come early if you want to try one.  They're scrumptious!
  • From our garden: bundles of beautiful baby leeks and more heirloom tomato starts (probably our last week for the starts)
  • From the fertile fields of Blue Moon Farm--hearty salad mix $6.50/lb
  • NEW this week: Pekara Bakehouse artisan breads and cookies
Come on out from 3 to 7PM!
Posted 6/23/2011 8:52pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Headline News:  A comprehensive study of foods people eat that make them gain or loose weight has concluded that cheese DOES NOT make you gain weight (stay away from potato chips, though).  This is yet another validation that cheese is GOOD for you! We're here to help you stay healthy with a lovely array of goat and sheep milk cheeses. 
This Saturday, we're attending THREE farmers' markets: Urbana, Bloomington and Oak Park.
Here's what we plan to have available:
  • Lots of lemony fresh chevre--plain, herbs de Provence and cracked peppercorn
  • Sheep milk feta--the first of the hothouse tomatoes are making their debuts at various farmers' markets around Illinois, so what better way to enjoy them than with crumbled tangy-salty feta cheese.
  • Angel Food--the gooeyness returns
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie--how about warming it in the oven and serving it on a bed of local mixed salad greens
  • Black Sheep--our new and improved version of black sheep is a bit younger than before, but oh so creamy in the mouth
  • Ewe Bloom--think Robiola but with sheep milk
  • Red Dawn--the smoked paprika on the rind will remind you of bacon
  • Huckleberry Blue-our spring milk version--it's got a nice blue bite but the body of the cheese is filled with notes of the grape jam-cassis spirits rub it's been bathed in
  • Mollisol Pecorino--a raw sheep milk pecorino romano swabbed in black currant-olive oil paste, aged for one year. It has a wonderful nutty flavor and works great as a grating cheese.
Wes has been slaving in front of the gelato batch freezer to offer our Urbana Farmers' Market goers a nice selection of our goat milk gelato. Here's what he'll be bringing to the market:
  • Simply Vanilla
  • Luscious Chocolate
  • Nocciola di Piemonte (hazelnut)
  • Pistacchio Siciliano
  • Local strawberry
  • Strawberry-rhubarb sorbetto
If you can't make it to the farmers' markets this Saturday, don't despair. Our on-farm "open house" is growing with products and guest vendors.  This coming Tuesday, June 28th from 3 to 7PM, expect lots more cheese and gelato of course, a few offerings from our organic vegetable garden, veggies from Blue Moon Farm AND artisan breads and cookies from Pekara Bakehouse.  Pretty soon, you'll be able to craft an elaborate meal from the wonderful local foods we'll have on offer at our farm. 
soltice moon
We have another farm dinner this Saturday--Summer Beer and Cheese Fest. The weather should be very pleasant (if not a bit cool), so we'll be dining outside.  The menu will be posted on our website some time tomorrow for those of you who would like to know what we're serving with the Blind Pig Brewery's outstanding microbrews.  To view the menu, go to and click on "Dinners on the Farm." Then, go to "Dinner Descriptions and Make Reservations" (NOTE, this dinner is sold out) and click on the June 25th Summer Beer and Cheese dinner for details. Summer is officially here, as this outrageous soltice moonrise suggests.

Posted 6/20/2011 8:49pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Greatings Local Food Lovers:
Tomorrow's on farm sales will be filled with lots of great FOOD:
  • our very own organic beets
  • lots of wonderful cheese of course--in case you missed the Urbana Farmers' Market this Saturday or we ran out of your favorite cheese--buy some beets, roast them, and then sprinkle some chevre on top--hard to beat (no pun intended)
  • Goat milk gelato: chocolate, hazelnut, strawberry, rhubarb and vanilla--both single servings and pints to take home (or eat here while you visit with the goats)
But wait, there's more.....
  • Blue Moon Farm Salad Mix! Yeah!!!
AND, Rachel, our horticulturist, has potted up some gorgeous heirloom tomato plants for you to plant in your own gardens or in containers.  She has 20 different varieties from which to choose. If you've procrastinated about growing your own tomatoes, now is your chance.
Come on out to the farm from 3-7PM. The goats will be here, will you??
Posted 6/17/2011 9:07am by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
It's the time of year that the poultry arrive for our farm dinners. Two weeks ago, our "freedom ranger" meat chickens arrived as day old chicks. They are sturdy, fat-legged chickens that LOVE to forage. Even as day-old chicks you can see it in their anatomy.  They are designed to eat pasture and bugs.  We have them in our kid barn and they are already developing their adult plummage.  Wednesday morning of this week, our Muscovy ducklings arrived at the Post Office. We are raising them for the "100 Yard Dinner." 
They're SO different than chickens. Apart from the obvious anatomical indicators: nail-polish pink bills and delicate webbed feet (with toe nails for tree climbing apparently), their first instinct after being liberated from their transportation box, was to jump in the water container we had provided for them to DRINK!  Muscovy ducks are supposed to be more of a land-loving duck, but clearly it is hard to take the water out of the duck.  They're also known for their prolific insect (flies especially) eating, so we're excited to get them big enough to roam outside in the pastures and close to the goat barn. 
This is also the time of year that we make decisions about which doe kids to keep and which ones to sell.  It is bittersweet because, inevitably, everyone involved in caring for them has his or her favorites.  Nat, one of our new cheesemakers, fell in love with one particularly charismatic doeling he nick-named "black goat."  She is the twin daughter of Velvet, and we decided to keep her twin sister but sell "black goat" to a wonderful young couple who are starting their own goat dairy and farmstead goat creamery in Door County Wisconsin.
Nat with Black Goat
There were lots of hugs and kisses before her departure, but we know she is helping to start another wonderful herd in our neighboring state to the North. We feel honored that some of our does will now populate that the state that has the highest number of goat dairies in the US. 
On to the markets, and cheese in particular.  Many of you have been waiting for the arrival of some of our longer aged, hard cheeses.  I am pleased to announce that both Huckleberry Blue (Spring Variation) and Molllisol Pecorino Romano will be at the farmers' markets this Saturday. The Huckleberry Blue is made with spring milk and has an intense piquant blue flavor. The blue veining on this cheese is much more prolific than our late lactation version.  You can still taste the hints of grape jam and cheese nuttiness in the body of the cheese.  The Mollisol Pecorino was made a year ago with Plank Farm raw sheep milk. It has a somewhat sweet-nutty taste accentuated with that wonderful fatty acid finish. The texture is nice and firm, great for grating over a summer pasta dish. 
We are attending three farmers' markets this Saturday--Urbana, Green City Market and Oak Park. The weather forecast is chance of showers, but just bring an umbrella, and you'll be able to shop to your heart's content.  In addition to the blue and pecorino, we'll have:
  • Fresh chevre--plain, herbs de Provence and cracked pepper
  • Fresh sheep milk ricotta--wonderful texture--crumble it on that same pasta dish you're going to make with the pecorino
  • Sheep milk feta--it's saltiness can be asset when pairing with food--you won't need to add more salt!
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie--these camembert-style rounds are just beginning to ripen, so you can either eat them now, or let them sit in your frig for a few days to get more gooey.
  • Angel Food--our goat milk brie--this batch is also a bit firmer than our usual oozy style, but just let them warm to room temp, and the taste is wonderful
  • Ewe Bloom-delicate rind and intense creamy texture-yum
  • Black Sheep--the soft-ripened sheep milk cheese with ash on the rind
  • NEW!!! and exclusive to the farmers' markets: Baby Ewe Bloom (aka "baby bloom") and Baby Black Sheep--we decided to conduct a little 'experiment' with size--small rounds of both styles of cheese and these little delicate morsels are perfectly ripe after only eight days. Try one!
GELATO: Wes and Stewart have been busy spinning their creamy goat milk gelato. This week at the Urbana Farmers' Market, we will have:
  • Simply Vanilla
  • Luscious Chocolate
  • Essence of Chocolate Mint
  • Hazelnut
  • Local Strawberry
  • Local Cherry
Come early for the best selections. 
If you miss us at the markets, you can come out to the farm on Tuesday afternoons from 3-7PM.  I'll let you know what we expect to have at the farm early next week.  EAT LOCAL, BE HAPPY!
Posted 6/14/2011 11:09am by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
I'll be brief. Today, June 14th from 3 to 7PM, come on out to the farm to buy some cheese and gelato and farm fresh eggs. We will also have some beautiful breakfast radishes picked this morning from our garden.  The weather is PERFECT for a farm outing--make it a Prairie Fruits Farm afternoon!
thanks and see you here
Posted 6/10/2011 7:27am by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
The old adage "make hay when the sun shines" is difficult to realize in the now humid tropics of central Illinois.  In an ideal situation, you cut hay when the weather forecasts at least three to four days of sunny dry weather.  For the uninitiated, there are several critical steps to making hay that goats will eat: first you cut it--this involves a special piece of equipment that essentially mowes down the stand of alfalfa (in our case, it's a mixture of mostly alfalfa and some grass). Then you rake it into windrows--this step usually occurs on day two.  Sometimes you rake it twice to fluff up the cut alfalfa to speed up the drying.  If the drying is sufficient, you can bale it on day three. This involves another special piece of equipment called a baler. Ours is very old and idiosyncratic and subject to frequent break-downs. When baling, it is critical to not crimp down on the hay too much; otherwise the hay becomes brittle and the leaves separate from the stems.  Goats love leaves; they don't like stems. If your leaves fall off, you'll be left with stemmy hay to which they turn up their noses. The other old adage that goats will eat anything is false!
This past week's exceedingly hot and steamy weather made making hay a challenge, especially with the first cutting of alfalfa. It takes longer to dry, leaving it vulnerable to sitting in the field when those intense rain storms come along. We were able to get some of it out of the field, but in the end, the baler broke down one too many times and the rains came at inappropriate times. We had to mulch a good part of the hay right in the field where it lay.  It is not a total loss as the nutrients from the cut hay will replenish the soil and help grow the alfalfa for the second cutting. The second cutting has more leaves than stem anyway, making it more attractive to goats. 

Our on-farm sales on Tuesday afternoon were a huge success--ok I eggagerate a bit. For those who ventured out, they had a full selection of cheeses, gelato and our very own eggs to buy.  They also spent quality time with the baby (well, they are entering into pre-teen age) goats.  This coming Tuesday's farm sale should be even better.  Of course we'll be offering tastings of gelato and cheese, single-servings of gelato and more of our farm-fresh eggs. We're working on a surprise gelato confection to unveil on Tuesday as well, so if you like surprise sweets, you'll have to come out. We may also have Pekara Bakery here selling their wonderful breads and pastries.  I'll send an update on Monday to let folks know what we will have--remember it's 3-7PM on Tuesdays.
We're attending three markets this Saturday: Bloomington, Urbana and Oak Park.  Expect the following cheeses for sale:
  • Fresh chevre
  • Sheep Milk Feta
  • Angel Food
  • Smokin' Angel Food (apple-wood smoked by the kind folks at Black Dog Smoke and Ale House in Urbana)
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie
  • Ewe Bloom
  • Smokin' Ewe Bloom (we had to try it, right??)
  • Krotovina
  • Red Dawn
  • Maybe: Huckleberry Blue--our raw milk goat's milk blue made with spring milk. It's a bit more piquant than our end of the season version, but still a wonderful nutty blue.
Wes' gelato flavors at the Urbana Farmers' Market are:
  • Simply Vanilla
  • Luscious Chocolate
  • Hazelnut (Nocciola)
  • Sicilian Pistacchio
  • Local Strawberry (made with some of our very own organic strawberries)
We'll have single servings as well as pints for sale. 

We have another farm dinner this Saturday--"The Pampas Meets the Prairie" It's an Argentine carnivore's delight. The menu will be posted on our website later today. For our grill's sake, pray for NO RAIN on Saturday.