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Posted 11/12/2015 6:36pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

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Farm News (really off the farm)

This week we travelled west to celebrate my father-in-law’s 90th birthday.  The Jarrell clan moved west from the Arkansas hills to the Oregon hills during the Great Depression.  They're made of tough stock; hard scrabble survivors and resourceful people.  My father-in-law, Burl, walks their little farm on the hill daily, outpacing folks a fraction of his age, conversing while traversing the slopes without a noticeable change in breath. 

With the birthday celebrations behind us, we decided to visit a goat dairy that had moved just up the road from the Jarrell farm, Fraga Farm.  It's always great to meet fellow farmstead goat dairy folks.  I’ve always found them gracious and open to sharing “war” stories and tastes of cheese.  We sat around their dining room table, talking goat health, cheese aging and market customers, in between bites of bread, jam and cheese. 

guinea hog and goats 

We knew we weren’t in “Kansas” anymore (aka Midwest) when they talked about their customers’ zealous conversations about goat auras. They milk mostly Alpines, we milk Nubians and La Manchas. They milk year-round (seems to be easier to do in Oregon than the cold climes of the Midwest) while we milk seasonally. We make similar repertoires of cheeses-chevre, bloomies, raw milk tommes, and we struggle with the same challenges of cheese aging conditions and ensuring our cheeses are clean and safe. We both have friendly farm critters who greet visitors—theirs are banty hens and guinea hogs, ours are canine (Blue) and caprine (Athena—the little white Nigerian Dwarf “escape goat.”). With the Oregonian fall fog bearing down on us, we departed Fraga Farm, cheeses gifts in hand, hazelnut orchard on the other side of the dirt road.   

pasture tree in mist

Farmers’ Markets and Holiday Markets

This Saturday, November 14th, we move inside Lincoln Square Mall for Urbana’s Holiday Market at the Square. The market hours are 8AM to 1PM and our booth is located on the south end of the market (next to Art Mart).

Next week, we are hosting a pre-Thanksgiving Holiday “Open House” on Wednesday, November 18th from 4-6 PM. We’ll have cheese, bread (Stewart’s Artisan Breads), gelato, knife sharpening and Caveny Farm turkey pick up. Details forthcoming early next week.  Saturday, the 21st, we’ll be attending THREE THANKSGIVING HOLIDAY MARKETS: Urbana, Bloomington and Chicago’s Green City Market.

For this weekend, we have the following cheeses:

  • Fresh chevre: plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper
  • Angel Food—crottin style
  • “Peaches ‘N Dreams”—a special 10th anniversary cheese ---lactic curd bloomy rind discs with a peach jam filling (this cheese is a creation of my cheese makers, Lynn and Dani, make as a complete surprise)
  • Feta in whey brine
  • Moonglo
  • Huckleberry Blue  

For gelato, we’ll have:

  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Holiday Spice 
  • Strawberry Cheesecake
  • Cardamom
  • Sugar Plum Sorbetto
  • Pumpkin  

We will also have salted goat-milk caramels and farm-house crackers.  Stay tuned for details about all the holiday food offerings. In addition to markets, we will be taking orders for holiday cheese platters. 

 


Copyright 2015. Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery, LLC. 2015. 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 11/5/2015 10:21pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

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Farm News

After a cold rainy farmers’ market last Saturday, the clouds parted and the strength of the sun reached my aching bones.  The warmth and green growth that displaced the cold feels more like spring than fall. If it weren’t for the crimson, harvest gold and burnt orange ‘70’s-kitchen colors of the leaves that are falling on this newly green grass, I’d swear we were back in April.  The clematis and quince even have flowers, and I spied several bees on some dill blossoms in the herb garden.  While I relish the warmth of these early November days, the receding daylight tells me that something’s not quite right with this weather.  Tonight’s gentle rain will usher in the cold anew, and the fall will take its rightful place again. 

November is the month that our doelings walk over the threshold to adulthood.  We have been busy these past few days finalizing breeding plans and setting up pens for the new nuptials.  I know they are ready biologically, because several of them have been cycling into heat over the past couple of weeks.  The intellectual side of my brain accepts this reality of nature; the emotional side of my brain struggles with letting go of my “babies.” You’d think I would get used to this transition after so many years.  It’s still pulls me in two directions.

Farmers’ Market News

This Saturday, November 7th is the last outdoor market of the season for the Urbana Market at the Square.  We will be there with layered clothing and lots of great cheese, gelato and other goodies.  We WON’T be at the first Indoor Green City Market until November 21st.  So, come on down to Urbana this weekend.  For cheese, we have:

  • Fresh chevre: plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper
  • Goat milk Feta in whey brine
  • Angel Food—this late lactation batch is nice and creamy
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie—the last of the season
  • Black Goat—also the last of the season
  • Goldenrod—it’s so gooey and delicious, you should eat it with a spoon.  In fact, it makes a great fondue. We’ll have recipe cards for a simple fondue
  • Moonglo—the nuttiness is very prominent in this batch
  • Huckleberry Blue—perfect with fall pears

For gelato:

  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Chocolate-Hazelnut
  • Pumpkin
  • Strawberry Cheese Cake
  • Holiday Spice
  • Sugar Plum Sorbetto

Don’t forget about farm- house crackers (oat-chevre and chive flatbread) and goat milk caramels.  Our chef, Alisa, has been very busy in the kitchen this week making jams for the holiday markets.  We’ll be hosting a pre-Thanksgiving “Open House” on Wednesday, November 18th and we’ll be attending three farmers’ markets on Saturday the 21st of November (Urbana, Bloomington and Green City Market).  Stay tuned for details about these markets.   


Copyright 2015. Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery, LLC. 2015. 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 10/30/2015 8:37am by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

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 Farm News

The imminent shift from daylight savings to standard time has me pondering the plunge into darker days.  Our ancient ancestors crafted myths and mythological figures to cope with the dark, and, amazingly, goats feature prominently in many of these myths.  Amalthea, a lovely doe, was the wet nurse for Zeus.  In fact, many of the Greek gods were nourished by goat milk.  Pan, half human-half goat, personified the god of all things wild and natural (and decadent); even the Romans evoked goat iconography in their mythologies.  The Vikings were not to be left out.  Thor’s chariot was pulled by two goats in Norse mythology: Tanngrisnir (Old Norse "teeth-barer, snarler") and Tanngnjóstr (Old Norse "teeth grinder"). 

How fitting that this year’s theme for our yearling does is “goddesses.”  We gave equal opportunity to goddesses from all ancient cultures: Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Nordic, Celtic and Hindu.  We named the lovely little Chicory doe “Aphrodite,” the Greek goddess of love and fertility. She was made irresistible to the opposite sex by her beautiful “girdle” (in our doeling’s case, it’s her gorgeous spots).  Then there’s “Athena.” We gave this name to the little white Nigerian Dwarf doeling out of Zaya—the one who is always escaping from the pens to greet our visitors.  Athena means ‘sharp’ and ‘mind of god.” Athena had “great intellectual ability to see the true nature of the situation”—how fitting is that?? We have Freya (Nordic goddess of love, beauty, war, wealth and magic), Lakshmi (Hindu goddess of abundance) and Nike (goddess of speed—we gave this name to one of the does who is impossible to catch).  These newly named, strong and powerful doelings will soon join the ranks of the milking herd.  Maybe their strong ties to the ancient goddesses will ease the darkness and cold of winter. 

Athena

"Athena"--mind of god; taking a moment to groom herself

Farmers’ Markets-Some Outdoor Markets ending this weekend

Stock up on some not-so-scary cheese at Urbana’s Market at the Square and Chicago’s Green City Market. This Saturday is the last outdoor market for Green City, and we won’t be returning to the indoor market (at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum) until November 21st.   We have one more outdoor market in Urbana (November 7th) and then we move inside Lincoln Square Mall for the “Holiday Market” season (starts November 14th). 

The cheese offerings:

  • Fresh chevre-- plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper—oh so creamy and rich this time of year
  • Feta aged in whey brine--tangy and crumbly—perfect for topping a pizza or hearty stew Angel Food—these little crottin-style bloomies are nice and ripe—get a few to enjoy at your adult Halloween parties
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie—the last of our camembert style goat rounds for the season-get ‘em while they last—they’re simply delicious right now
  • Black Goat—its rind is appropriately “scary” for the holiday, but once you cut it open and pop a slice in your mouth, you’ll be comforted
  • Goldenrod—hard cider-washed rind cheese; if any of our cheeses embodies Hallow’s eve, it’s this orange-rinded gooey cheese.  It’s quite ripe and gooey and would be perfect as the base for a cheese fondue (again, thinking about those adult Halloween holiday parties)
  • Moonglo—semi-hard, raw milk tomme—it’s the perfect balance of fruity and nutty
  • Huckleberry Blue—our raw milk blue; try crumbling it on some roasted winter squash—you’ll be blown away

Gelato-Yes it’s cold outside, but who doesn’t love to curl up by the fire with a bowl of ice cream?

  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Salted Caramel
  • Holiday Spice (nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, allspice)
  • Cardamom
  • Pistachio
  • Sugar Plum (spiced Plum sorbetto)

Farm Happenings

Farm to Table: Don’t forget to check out the menu for our upcoming Beer Dinner with Guest Chef Nathan Sears (Das Radler, Chicago) and Blind Pig Brewery, Saturday November 7th.

We still have a few seats left. Farm Classes: We still have openings for our Cheese Styles, Tasting and PairingsClass this coming Thursday, November 5th, 6-8:30 PM. 

If you want to become erudite in all things cheese, this class is for you!  We’re partnering with The Land Connection and Traderspoint Creamery (IN) to offer a “Dairy Start-up” Workshop on Sunday, November 15th, 1:00-5:00 PM.  The workshop will be held at our farm and you’ll learn all the basics about animal husbandry, milking, parlor design, regulations and value added products. If you’re thinking about getting into dairy (even on a very small scale), you should come.  Need some enticement? Check out this little video: https://thelandconnection.org/tlc-store/smalldairy

 


Copyright 2015. Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery, LLC. 2015. 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 10/22/2015 10:28pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

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Farm News

Our goat herd is certified “Animal Welfare Approved” and has been for over seven years.  Most of our customers have no idea what this means.  In short, it’s a third-party certification program that holds our farm to strict standards of pasture-based production and humane treatment of our animals. Many in the business of sustainable agriculture consider it the “gold standard” of livestock production.  In my conversations with our customers, I find a lot of confusion about farms that are certified.  Most folks seem to know something about “certified organic,” but few have barely heard of programs such as “Certified Humane” or “Naturally Grown” or “Animal Welfare Approved.”  Moreover, there are lots and lots of labels out there that lack clear definition and at times are meant to deceive the consumer.

As farmers and former educators, we can’t resist the opportunity to set the record straight about labels and claims that farms make to earn your business.   The Animal Welfare Institute has a great guide to food labels, certification programs and what the claims mean: https://awionline.org/content/consumers-guide-food-labels-and-animal-welfare

We chose Animal Welfare Approved or AWA certification because of its rigor and its adherence to pasture-based livestock production practices. AWA’s standards are designed to let each livestock species exhibit the true essence of their nature. For example, we must have climbing structures for all goats of all ages, because goats love to climb. 

Our AWA auditor arrived this morning to conduct his annual inspection of our farm and to review our management plans.  It’s an intense half-day process. AWA sends a new auditor each year, likely to maintain completely impartiality between the auditor and the audited. Over the years, we have questioned the humaneness behind some of the standards, and we have conducted our own research to make sure we can defend our arguments.  This is the first year that we have been audited during breeding season, making continuous access to pasture (one of their “no negotiation” requirements) a challenge for some of our breeding groups.  After much discussion, we will be modifying our pens so that all groups can have their time for pasture “recess.” 

Farmers’ Markets We’ll be attending both Urbana’s Market at the Square and Chicago’s Green City Market. There’s a chance of rain (which we really need), but just put on your galoshes and grab your umbrella and head to the last outdoor markets of the season.  We are still pretty flush with cheese:

  • Fresh Chevre: plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper
  • Feta aged in whey brine
  • Angel Food-our little crottin style bloomy rind cheese
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie-these camembert-style cheeses won’t be around too much longer, so get them while they last
  • Black Goat-ash-ripened, slightly funky, but delicious
  • Goldenrod-our newest cheese, a washed rind pungent beauty, try it with sliced apples
  • Moonglo-raw milk tomme; creamy, fruity, perfect with pears
  • Huckleberry Blue-raw milk blue, great with sautéed fall greens and toasted nuts

We have gelato too:

  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Pumpkin (made with local “Triple Treat” pumpkins from The Great Pumpkin Patch in Arthur IL)
  • Strawberry Cheesecake (made with dried local strawberries and our fresh chevre)
  • Cardamom
  • Salted Caramel
  • Lemon Verbena
  • Plum Sorbetto

We will also be bringing our salted goat milk caramels and farm house crackers as well as our goat milk soaps—we have a few new types including “lemon crazy,” “Thyme for roses” and “prairie lavender.”

Farm Happenings We have two remaining farm dinners with seats still available.  Guest Chef Nathan Sears of The Radler, Chicago will be teaming up with brew meister, Bill Morgan, of local Blind Pig Brewery fame, to craft a modern German meal to remember (November 7th). The menu is now posted on our website as well as the link to ticket sales.

While our Cheese Making class is sold out, we still have places open for our two evening workshops—Sensory evaluation of cheese (October 29th) and Cheese Accompaniments (November 5th).  You’ll learn a bit about cheese styles, how to describe what you’re tasting and how to pair cheese to enhance the flavors. Bring a friend or two; it will be lots of fun.

We’re also teaming up with Traderspoint Creamery and The Land Connection to offer a half-day workshop on starting your own farmstead dairy (November 15th).  Stay tuned for more details or visit The Land Connection’s website.    

 


Copyright 2015. Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery, LLC. 2015. 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 10/15/2015 8:48pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

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Farm News

As I review the breeding notes pages we keep in our milking parlor, I’m amazed at the speed with which some of our bucks are “getting the job done.” Mocha, the elder statesman La Mancha (he’s five years old, but that’s old for a breeding buck), is all business. If the notes are accurate, he has already bred the 12 does in his group.  We had been concerned about his health and overall fitness for breeding over the summer, but we indulged him with lots of grain, and hoped he’d get in the mood when his girls surrounded him.  Nate and Harry, our two Nubian bucks, like to serenade their ladies. I always know when one of their does comes into heat when the goat songs bellow forth from the doe barn. Sometimes I wonder if there’s a little too much singing and not enough action.  For some reason, their melodies remind me of the mating songs of Humpback whales. 

The cooler crisp fall weather has put us in a mood to get ready for winter. The lack of rain has forced us to irrigate our cover crop and winter wheat plot so it germinates.  We’re cleaning up barns, washing windows and putting up new doors so we can keep our goats warm and dry when the snow flies.  The call for killing frost tomorrow night means curtains for the tomato crop.  We pulled up the remaining vines and picked all the remaining tomatoes, green and all.  This is always a bittersweet time for me—savoring the last of the summer sweet fruit, but secretly glad we won’t have to pick them anymore.

In the cheeserie, the decline in milk production means fewer batches of cheese.  It also means we’ve started planning for the final farmers’ markets of the fall season.  This year, we decided to make a washed rind cheese for the fall and the holidays.  For those unfamiliar with cheese terminology, a washed rind cheese is bathed regularly in a culture-brine wash to create a sticky (and stinky) rind, usually yellow to orange in color, (very fitting for fall) with a dense, melty interior.   Aficionados of washed rind cheeses look past the aromas of “stinky feet” because their taste buds are rewarded with an explosion of buttery cheese-ness.  We decided to wash the rinds of our cheese with a Michigan cider (hard apple cider) to infuse the a little bit of autumn into the rind.  We’re calling this cheese “Goldenrod” in honor of the prolific fall blooms surrounding our farm and the golden color of the rind.  We hope you’ll try some at the markets this Saturday.

Farmers’ Markets

We’re attending both Urbana’s Market at the Square and Chicago’s Green City Market this Saturday. We have:

  • Fresh chevre: plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper
  • Feta in whey brine
  • Angel Food—crottin style—perfectly ripe for eating this week
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie: camembert style; tasting nicely despite its youth
  • Black Goat—this batch of ash-ripened robiola style cheese is a dense and fudgy
  • Moonglo: raw milk tomme
  • Huckleberry Blue: raw milk blue
  • Magia Negra: these are the last wedges for a while so get some now
  • Goldenrod: our NEW washed rind cheese

Gelato flavors include:

  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Pumpkin
  • Local Ginger
  • Cardamom
  • Fresh Mint
  • Strawberry Cheesecake
  • Lemon Verbena
  • Plum Sorbetto
We will also have salted goat milk caramels, house-made crackers and goat milk soaps for sale too. 

Farm Happenings: Our cheese making class is sold out, but there are still tickets available for our two other cheese classes (sensory evaluation and pairings).  We also have tickets available for the last two farm dinners of the season—November 7th and December 5th. 


Copyright 2015. Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery, LLC. 2015. 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 10/8/2015 11:17pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

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Farm News

This Saturday, we celebrate the culmination of the 2015 growing season with our “100 Yard Dinner on the Farm.”  When we began to offer farm dinners in 2008, our primary motivation was to showcase the diverse and delicious foods grown in our “backyard” (central Illinois).  At that time, we, as fellow farmers and food lovers, knew how amazing the vegetables, fruits, meats and eggs were from our neighboring farms, but we felt this great food was a too well-kept secret.  At some point in our brainstorming, we decided to challenge ourselves by crafting a five-course meal with ALL (well, everything except salt, pepper, olive oil, sugar and some spices) the ingredients grown on our farm exclusively.  The “100 Yard Dinner” was born. 

While we acknowledge that our farm’s inherent diversity makes it relatively easy to craft a five-course meal with homegrown ingredients (not everyone has their own dairy, makes their own cheese or has their own orchard and vegetable garden or their own flock of laying hens), we have come to realize that it takes a lot of planning (and good luck) to ensure we have enough diversity and quantity to feed 50 people. Dairy products are a given throughout the menu, from milk to yogurt to cheese.  

The vegetable planning begins in winter when we order seeds for the garden.  Tomatoes are a must have, but not just any tomatoes—we usually get at least a dozen varieties of heirlooms and hybrids representing a mix of processing and fresh eating tomatoes.  Potatoes have been another staple as well as onions and garlic.  In some years past, we’ve had the full gamut of vegetables from beans to cucumbers, squashes, sweet potatoes and greens.  In more recent years, we’ve streamlined our garden to the basic staple vegetables and some fall greens.  On a much smaller scale, we fret about the same things that all vegetable producers fret over: too much rain, too little rain, planting time, varmint (voles, rabbits) damage, weed pressure, insect pests, plant diseases… the list is long.  Since the garden is not our main enterprise, we struggle with justifying labor to get the garden established, maintained and harvested.  We’re also uneasy about timing the plantings of our fall vegetables to be ready for harvest in early October (this remains our Achilles heel). 

The fruit offerings have been a great source of anxiety as well.  Each winter, we hold our breath when the forecast calls from temperatures dipping close to minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit.  This is the temperature at which flower buds freeze and no flowers emerge to produce fruits.  If we dodge the winter temperature bullet, then there’s the worrying about spring freezes, insect damage and plant diseases (fire blight and pears for example).   Organic tree fruit production the Midwest is roller coaster ride of the Coney Island persuasion. 

Last, but certainly not least, is the choice of animal protein for the meal.  For the first few years, we stuck exclusively to poultry, believing they would be “easier” to raise than other meat animals.  Our trials and tribulations with guinea fowl, freedom ranger chickens, Muscovy ducks and Bronze turkeys are the stuff of legends. Each year, we started with grandiose ideas about how to raise them in moveable pens, serving multiple objectives of controlling insect pests in the orchard, eating flies, fertilizing the soil, etc.  From predators to fly away jail birds (the guineas remain the prize winners for escape rates), poultry raising has its own set of challenges.

We tried our hands at whey-fed pork a couple of years ago (I won’t go into the details here), and we went back to guinea fowl this year.  The turkey tractor that we built last year was repurposed for the guineas this year. I ordered the day-old keets (baby guineas) through Rural King (who knew!!), and they arrived four weeks later than promised (Fourth of July instead of early June).  We set them out in the turkey tractor in the “savannah” in front of our house.  There were lots of weeds for them to graze, and the shade from the trees reduced the heat stress tremendously.  Blue, our dog, along with a giant fish-catching net, proved essential in herding and catching escapees.  They grew remarkably fast, and we collected them in the early morning hours on Tuesday to take to the “processor” in Arthur. Their final weight was not as big as we had achieved in previous years (three weeks makes a big difference in their growth rate), but they are respectable.  Saturday, we will sit down with our guests to a homegrown feast. The farm’s cheese makers and herd manager will join us.  As I reflect on the season and its challenges, I still believe that the rewards outweigh them. 

guineas

Farmers’ Market News

We’ll be attending the Urbana “Market at the Square” only this weekend.  We WON’T be attending Chicago’s Green City Market (but we’ll return on Saturday the 17th).  We have some delicious bloomy rind cheeses for you this weekend—all perfectly ripe for eating:

  • Angel Food
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie
  • Black Goat (if you’ve been waiting for a gooey batch, your ship has come in this week)
  • We also have chevre: plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper
  • Fresh Ricotta-special fall batch—limited supply; come early if you want some
  • Feta in brine and olive oil—very limited quantities of both
  • Moonglo
  • Huckleberry Blue
  • Magia Negra—last pieces of the first batch

We still have lots of gelato by the pint for your enjoyment:

  • Fresh mint
  • Strawberry Cheesecake
  • Pumpkin
  • Local Ginger
  • Salted Caramel
  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Pistachio
  • Plum Sorbetto

We also have farmhouse crackers and salted goat milk caramels too. Our fruit will be at the market as well (in aisle 3—north end)—apples, cider and some baked goods. 

Saturday, October 10th, is our final “Apple Daze” of the season. Come out to the farm from 1-4PM to pick apples, enjoy some cider and pick up some baked goods, cheese, gelato and more.  It should be a glorious fall day, so come on out. 

Sunday, October 11th, is the screening of the documentary film “A Farmers’ Road” about Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery. It will be shown at the Art Theater in downtown Champaign—2:30-5:00 pm. Wine and cheese reception will follow the screening along with a Q&A with the director and the “cast.”  Check out the details on our Facebook Event Page. 

Don’t forget to check out our schedule of fall cheese classes. Fall is for learning and we promise you’ll become your household’s cheese expert after taking one or more of our classes. 


Copyright 2015. Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery, LLC. 2015. 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 10/1/2015 9:55pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

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Farm News

We marveled at the full harvest moon’s eclipse last Sunday evening.  The aptly named “blood moon” was literally awesome.  Knowing that the next one will happen in 30 years (and that I might not be around to see it) forced me to view it with greater purpose than I normally view astrological events.  What a celestial way to usher in the harvest season around us, as well as our own breeding season.

This year, we derived our mating selections using data. For several years, I’ve been curious to see how our bucks’ genetics are playing out in their daughters and which doe-buck pairings have produced shear magic on the milk stand.  I sat down with our new herd manager, Erica, to pour over previous breeding plans, DHI data (these are the monthly milk production records we have for each doe in the milking herd) and pedigree sheets.  It was a revealing exercise.  I feel like I’m on much more solid footing with this year’s match making, with clear rationales and actual goals—so grown up. 

Not only did we have a solid breeding plan, we had decided to take the plunge with an ambitious overhaul of our hay feeders and doe barn layout.   Wes and Erica spent hours taking measurements and revising designs, and then construction began yesterday.  We decided to go with a key-hole manger with a flat bottom. This design creates a designated space for each goat to put her head through (eliminating fighting for feed bunk space) and minimizes their opportunity to pull hay through and waste it on the barn floor.  The barn layout design facilitates feeding, goat movement (from barn to milking parlor and out to pasture) and barn clean out.

wes and elena with drill fever

The crew spent two VERY long days cutting out 80 key holes from the plywood frames, then assembling the feeders and cleaning out the doe barn to install the new feeders and the new layout.  By noon today, we were feeling like we were in pretty good shape to have the installation finished by evening milking time (5:00 pm).  As 4:00 pm approached, it was pretty clear we weren’t going to make it. 

key holes into the mind of a goat

The does, ever punctual when it comes to their routine, began to congregate at the pasture gate, peering curiously and anxiously into the barn as we pounded more t-posts into the ground, put the fencing back in place, spread the barn lime and then finally bedded with straw.  At last, we opened the gate, and they poured into the barn for a brief moment before scurrying into the holding pen for milking.  As they peeled off the milking line, they finally were able to explore their new digs (and test the strength of the feeders and the gates, of course); they grasped the key hole feeder concept immediately (clearly this system is designed with the goat mind in mind).  We delighted over their satisfaction for their new barn design; dead tired but happy to hear the silence of goats enjoying some great alfalfa hay. 

Farmers’ Markets

We’ll be at both Urbana’s Market at the Square and Chicago’s Green City Market this Saturday, October 3rd. The weather might be a bit chilly, but it is October after all. As fall advances, we have some changes to the cheese repertoire at the markets.  THIS IS THE LAST WEEKEND FOR TOMATO CHEVRE AND FETA IN OLIVE OIL, so if you’ve been holding off stocking up on these cheeses, it’s now or never (well, until next year anyway). 

  • Fresh chevre: plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper, dried tomato
  • Feta two ways: marinated in olive oil and packed in whey brine
  • Angel Food: very delicate bloomy rind crottin, delicious!
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie: goat milk camembert; perfectly ripe for eating this weekend
  • Black Goat: this little ash-coated round is packed with flavor
  • Moonglo: raw milk tomme, fruity and nutty all in one bite
  • Magia Negra: our raw milk grating-style cheese with black currant paste on the rind (two more weeks for this cheese before it goes on vacation for a while)
  • Huckleberry Blue: our raw milk blue cheese, creamy yet piquant

Gelato Flavors include:

  • Pumpkin (‘tis the season--triple treat pumpkins from The Great Pumpkin Patch)
  • Local Ginger (limited quantities)
  • Strawberry Cheesecake
  • Honey Thyme
  • Cajeta Swirl
  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Salted Caramel
  • Tart cherry Stracciatella
  • Plum Sorbetto

We have farmhouse crackers, salted caramels and goat milk soap (don’t eat this please) too.

Farm Happenings

Apple Picking and Cider Daze: If you’ve been thinking about coming out to the farm to pick apples, we have two more weekends for apple picking—October 3rd and 10th, 1:00-4:00 pm.  In addition to apples, we have cider (hot cider by the cup and half gallons to take home), baked goods, cheese, gelato and other farm goodies. 

Showing of “A Farmers’ Road," Sunday October 11th at The Art Theater, Champaign: The documentary film about Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery will be shown in Champaign: 2:30-5:00 pm.  The director of the film will be there to engage in discussion after the screening. We’ll also have some PFFC treats for sale at the concession stand as well as a cheese tasting after the screening.  Tickets are ONLY $5. 

Farm Dinners: There are still seats available for the last three dinners of the season.  We’ve got two great guest chefs (Perennial Virant –October 24th and The Radler (with Blind Pig Brewery)-November 7th as well as the grand finale of the season on December 5th.  Splurge on some tickets—you won’t regret it.

Farm Classes-we want to EDUCATE you about all things cheese.  Check out the schedule and sign up.


Copyright 2015. Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery, LLC. 2015. 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 9/18/2015 8:25am by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

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 Farm News

One of the most satisfying aspects of being a cheese maker is crafting a new cheese.  We often get pulled along by the currents of our usual repertoire, balancing the needs of the market place and our bottom line.  The weekly make schedule leaves little time for experimentation, especially during the height of our seasonal production schedule.  So, when Rick Bayless of Frontera Grill contacted me in late winter this year, asking if we could make a hard, grating “cotija” style cheese for his restaurants, I jumped at the chance. 

We conversed several times by phone, so I could get a clear picture of the texture and flavor profile he wanted.  He wanted a raw milk cheese, dry enough to be grated with sharp and distinct flavors. We then brought in a couple of cheese consultants familiar with Mexican and Spanish style cheeses.  Both tried to persuade me against using goat milk to make a cotija. Like many traditional artisan cheeses in Europe, cotija is a protected name cheese, made with milk from a specific breed of cattle in a specific place (Cotija, Mexico) during a specific time of year.  At some point in our discussions, one of the consultants suggested a cheese called “Majorero.” This is a hard, raw milk cheese made in the Canary Islands from the milk of Majorera goats.  Not familiar with this cheese, I went straight to google.  Despite the stark differences in climate and breeds of goat between the Canary Islands and central Illinois, I was drawn to this cheese.  The stark white paste against a beautiful rusty-red rind (the rind is rubbed with pimento—Spanish paprika) was a show stopper.

Obtaining an actual recipe from the cooperative of Majorero cheese producers proved next to impossible (I do understand their desire to protect their recipe), so I set out to develop my own recipe by designing a make procedure that would produce the desired effects in the finished cheese: raw milk, hard (pressed), slightly nutty but piquant, beautiful red rind, aged for just over two months.  When I suggested to Rick Bayless that we do a dried chile rub to simulate the pimenton, he recommended guajillo chilies.  The next thing I know, I’m receiving a five pound box of dried guajillo chilies that need to be toasted, seeded and finely ground to a paste with olive oil. 

Once I had a fairly good grasp of our recipe, we took the plunge and made a small batch (about 30 gallons) one fine day in April.  In many ways, you take a leap of faith, not having any solid reference points of how the curd should feel, how the acidification curve should progress, how long the wheels should be left in the brine.  We waited about a week before we started rubbing the rinds with chile paste.  We had also decided to make a rub with something completely different to see how the rub would affect the flavor development of the cheese. Always wanting to incorporate elements from our own landscape, I chose a black currant rub with our farm’s black currants.  We rubbed the cheeses a couple of times to keep the rogue molds in check. 

After one and a half months, we cored a wheel from each type to see how the aging was progressing.  The cheese textures and flavors from the two rubs were remarkably different.  The chile-rubbed cheese was slightly drier and sweeter, while the currant-rubbed cheese was more pliable and nutty.  We let the wheels age for another few weeks, tasted them again, and remarkably, the currant-rubbed cheese had taken on greater nutty complexity while approaching the sweeter, drier flavors of the chile-rubbed cheese.

Finally, in early July, we were able to bring the chile-rubbed cheese to Chicago for its tasting debut at Frontera Grill.  Our entire cheese making staff (well, it’s only three of us plus our cheese maker intern) presented the cheese to Rick Bayless and his chefs, explained how we made and aged the wheels and then cut one in half for the tasting.  I’m happy to report that they loved the cheese.  We went back to our creamery and decided to make another batch of just black currant rubbed wheels so we could offer it to our farmers’ market customers.  That batch is finally ready for prime time: meet “Magia Negra” (black magic in Spanish). 

magia negra

Farmers’ Markets

After another roller coaster week of cold to hot to cool weather, the forecast for Saturday is again very fall-like.  We have a great line up of cheeses for you to try and buy:

  • Fresh chevre: plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper and tomato (only a few more weeks of dried tomato chevre, so you better stock up now)
  • Feta two ways: packed in whey-brine and marinated in olive oil with fresh herbs
  • Angel Food: dense and fudgy bloomy rind—delicate mushroomy rind
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie: perfectly ripe this week with just the right amount of gooeyness
  • Black Goat: gorgeous geo rind over charcoal ash, also perfectly ripe for eating this week
  • Moonglo: our raw milk tomme—fruity & nutty perfect for fall fruits like apples and pears
  • Huckleberry Blue: raw milk blue—creamy and piquant
  • Magia Negra: the latest in our raw milk repertoire—firm, dry, nutty—a wonderful grating style cheese.

Although the heat of the summer is gone, we still have lots of great gelato flavors for you. The good news is that the pints won’t melt on their way home to your freezers:

  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Salted Caramel
  • Fresh Mint
  • Strawberry Cheesecake
  • Green Tea
  • Plum Sorbetto

Are some of the flavors we should have at the farmers’ market.  Salted goat milk caramels return to the markets this week (it’s been cooler in the kitchen, so we can make them again) along with our farmhouse crackers.  We may even have some of our house-made jams for sale. 

Farm Happenings

The farm is open week-days from 10 AM to 5PM. Come on out to see the goats and buy some farm products if you need an escape from your daily grind. 

Saturday, September 19th (YES, that’s tomorrow) is the start of our “Cider Daze.”  You’ll be so blown away by the taste of our cider, you'll be put in a daze of bliss. We are open 1-4 PM for apple picking, hot cider by the cup, slices of pie (with or without gelato) as well as cheese, gelato, sausages and other farm goodies.  Bring the family or just come out yourself. Remember to follow our road detour directions.   


Copyright 2015. Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery, LLC. 2015. 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 9/10/2015 9:01pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

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Farm News

We’ve been waiting and waiting to hear from our beekeeper, Emil, just how did our honey crop turn out this year.  We’ve been dying to know how our pollinator habitat “experiment” played out.  A couple of weeks ago, I snagged Emil leaving the farm, bee supers loaded in the back of his pickup truck.  I’ve become used to bad bee news; small brood densities, bees leaving honey uncapped, queens mysteriously disappearing. I’ve become used to seeing Emil’s sad eyes, his look of helplessness and exasperation over bees not behaving as they should.  Sadness has been the theme of bee keeping at the farm over the past few years.

When I caught him nearly pulling out of our driveway, he rolled down his window, and I asked, with trepidation, about the bees.  Despite his usual Lutheran-minister “poker” face, he managed to crack a smile and reported that the bees look great.  There is lots of brood (baby bees), the adults have been capping their honey and they appear to still be foraging on fall asters, goldenrod and clover.  He went on to tell me that the hives haven’t looked this good in years.  He seems almost giddy (again, those Lutheran ministers don’t show their cards much).  He’d decided to leave them extra honey (meaning, we don’t get much this year), but I tell him, I don’t care. I’m so happy that our bees might actually have a fighting chance of surviving the winter, that less honey for us this year might reap bountiful honey next year.  

I feel both instantaneous and delayed gratification.  I’m guardedly optimistic that our attempts to provide habitat and nectaries from early spring to fall have helped them produce healthy colonies. I believe that our placement of the hives next to the prairie was prudent, buffering the hives from agricultural fields that are assaulted by agro-chemicals.  We won’t rest on our laurels next year. We’ll plant even more flowering plants with even longer flowering times.  For now, I am happy to have some honey to offer our customers this fall; the sweetness of summer concentrated in golden liquid.

fall honey

Farmers’ Markets

From crisp fall air to heat wave back to fall cool, this Saturday could be a true fall blustery day.  Don’t let a little cold air slow you down. Come visit us at Urbana’s Market at the Square and Chicago’s Green City Market.  We have cheese:

  • Fresh chevre: plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper and heirloom-dried tomato
  • Feta: both marinated in olive oil with fresh herbs and packed in whey brine
  • Angel Food: crottin style, delicate flavor with a hint of mushroom
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie: this batch is young, but has all the makings of a perfect camembert-style cheese.  Come get some to ripen in your frig for a few days
  • Black Goat: ash-ripened beauties, slightly tangy and yeasty but oh so good
  • Moonglo: raw milk tomme, firm but creamy; loaded with complex flavors
  • Huckleberry Blue: raw milk blue, creamy and nutty; a blue-lover’s blue

We have gelato:

  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Green Tea
  • Honey Thyme
  • Salted Caramel
  • Fresh Mint
  • Tart-cherry Stracciatella
  • Plum Sorbetto

Are most of the flavors we’ll have on hand to try and to buy.  We will also have our farmhouse crackers for sale as well as some goat milk soaps.  DON’T FORGET THE HONEY: AVAILABLE IN 8 AND 16 OUNCE GLASS JARS.  Now that the weather is cooling off and it’s cooler in the kitchen, we’ll start making our mouth-watering goat milk caramels next week. 

Farm Happenings

We have a very busy weekend here at the farm.  Saturday, September 12th, we’re hosting the Illinois Organic Growers’ Association’s “Crop Cycle” cycling tour of farms in the morning. Then, the chefs from Honey Butter Fried Chicken (Chicago) arrive to cook up a fantastic “fancy fare” meal (still have four tickets left for sale for this one).  Sunday, September 13th, from 1:30 to 5:30, we’re hosting our “Cheese, Wild Game and Wine” Tasting Trail.” There are a few tickets left for that event too. 

Don’t forget to reserve some apple cider from our orchard caretakers, Dani and Erica. Email them at PFFCFRUIT@gmail.com. They will be starting U-Pick Apples next Saturday, September 19th, so keep close to your Facebook and other social media outlets for all the details about that.

If you’ve been thinking about splurging for a farm dinner, we still have TICKETS!!  We thought we were sold out for our 100 Yard Dinner, but alas, there are 10 seats OPEN for this meal. You really shouldn’t miss it. There are also seats left for guest chefs from Perennial Virant and the Radler (modern German cuisine partnered with beer from the Blind Pig Brewery) and our blow-out final “Holiday Dinner” in early December. 

With the cooler weather approaching, we’re making plans for farm classes and workshops as well as special tasting events. Stay tuned for upcoming dates and details. 


Copyright 2015. Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery, LLC. 2015. 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 9/8/2015 11:43am by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

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September is in full swing, and many folks are back to work and school, but farmers' market season is VERY much alive. We will be at The Land Connection's Downtown Champaign Farmers' Market this afternoon (4-7 PM), so come visit us.  We'll have cheese: 
  • Fresh Chevre: plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper AND heirloom-dried tomato
  • Feta marinated in olive oil with fresh herbs
  • Black goat and Angel Food
  • Moonglo and Huckleberry Blue

We have LOTS of pints of gelato including: vanilla, chocolate, gianduja (choc-hazelnut), salted caramel swirl and green tea

We will probably be bringing some organic apples too.  

Cheese to Wine Tasting Trail tickets are still available.  Spend a fun-filled Sunday afternoon this Sunday, September 13th in East-Central IL.  Details and ticket purchase HERE.

Tickets to our famed "100 Yard Dinner" are now available.  We thought it was sold out, but it's NOT.  This is the farm dinner not to be missed--98% of all the food served come from within 100 yards of the dinner table.  Click here to make reservations. 


Copyright 2015. Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery, LLC. 2015. 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.