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Big City Drop Off, Market Offerings, Farm Happenings

Posted 8/16/2018 7:08pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

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Farm News  

Last night’s rain dump of over a half inch in one hour reset the humidity dial to high and the intensity of vegetative green from dull to blinding.  The timing was perfect for our garden’s newly germinated seedlings of kale, carrots, chard and broccoli rabe.  While irrigation coaxes the tiny plants out of the soil, a good soaking rain pushes them upward toward the light with gusto.  The timely precipitation will help the pasture recover as well.  The goats were on the verge of running out of interesting things to eat, but the drench should sprout more of the young shoots they so love.  Food equals milk equals cheese; this is my mantra these days.

Today, I left the farm for the big city. Normally, Wes takes our cheese to wholesale customers in Chicago, but it was my turn today.  Having grown up in big cities, I find that I need to pull my city mindset from the recesses of my brain.  It is very much a part of my being, but it has been usurped by my farmer persona.  I have become accustomed to our big-sky, flat and open-space landscape; the tallest protrusions are the trees lining our creek to the east and the towering soybean plants to the west.  I have become complacent with the absence of traffic in our town. I don’t think twice about not locking our doors, or leaving our keys in our cars (anyone who might want to take some of our junkers is most welcome).  So, the two-hour journey north to the big city gives me time to shift personas.

Since the truck can practically drive itself to Chicago (Wes makes deliveries every Thursday), I allow my mind to wander as I pass familiar milestones along interstate 57; the expansive tree nursery near Onarga, the beautiful historic red barn on the Brockman Family Farm north of Gilman, the weave of the Illinois Central railroad tracks that parallels the highway from time to time.  The radio keeps me company; I can listen more intently to the public radio shows I normally have on as background noise at the farm.  Crossing the Kankakee River, I typically lose the signal from our local AM public radio station and switch the dial to Chicago’s FM station.  Passing the turn-off to interstate 80 (the east west highway that many Chicagoans consider the dividing line between their world and the rest of the state of Illinois to the south), the traffic intensifies and the corn fields give way to concrete.  I reconnect with my inner-city driving skills—like riding a bike, I have not lost my touch to lane weave. 

As I-57 ends and I-90/94 begins, the skyscraper skyline appears on the horizon.  At this point, the traffic usually slows, and I brace myself for the typical stop and go that is endemic to city driving.  I consider myself lucky if I don’t have to slow below 50 mph.  Once I make my first exit, the challenges of pedestrians and drivers co-mingle.  The “NO PARKING” signs become suggestions to the myriad of other delivery trucks parked in bus lanes.  I just put the flashers on, act like a local and unload my cheese cargo onto a cart placed strategically on the side walk.  The cheese beneficiaries act happy to see me. Chivalrously, they hold the door open or even carry the 25 pound tubs into the shop for me.  With lightning speed, the first transaction is complete, and I’m back in the truck, planning my next set of turns and stops. 

The small delights come from finding the perfect parking spot or breezing through stretches of highway normally clogged with traffic.  One of my customers offers me lunch (chefs do that with farmers—so generous). Before I know it, I’m back in the truck, heading south, pining for the openness that awaits me south of I-80. 

Text Message Customer Loyalty Program: This week’s text club special relates to goat milk feta. To get the message with the special info, you’ll need to sign up: text either “GOAT” or “URBANA” or “FARMSTORE” to 30500 to sign up. 

Farmers’ Market Offerings

This Saturday’s forecast for Urbana is warm and sunny. Come early to the market to get first dibs on the best of the summer’s bounty. Our feta is back:  so many options for using it with market fruits and veggies.  We’re running our “Moonglo Flight” special for one more weekend, so if you missed it last weekend, you’ve got one more shot. Here’s the deal: Buy all four of our Moonglo variations (described below) and take 20% off the total sale price. If you buy three out of the four, we’ll take 10% off. 

Here’s the cheese line up for Saturday:

  • Fresh chevre: plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper
  • Goat Milk Feta: watermelon, heirloom tomatoes—they’re begging for a salty, tangy crumbled feta to adorn them. Our feta is aged in a whey brine for 1-2 months; it’s tangy, crumbly and perfect for summer salads.
  • Plain Goat Milk Yogurt: we have fresh supply of plain, whole-milk yogurt from Green Meadows Farm that we’re bringing to market. They have made a special batch for us that is just milk and live cultures (no thickeners). 
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie: This batch is modestly ripe, with a slightly gooey edge along the rind.  Flavor is buttery, milky and slightly mushroomy.
  • Angel Food: our little “mini-brie” or crottin style bloomy rind; this batch of Angel Food is aging nicely, with hints of cream and mushroom.  It could be sliced into rounds, lightly breaded and pan-fried for topping a bed of fresh greens.
  • Black Goat: an ash-coated bloomy with a delicate and crinkly yeasty rind. This batch is ripe, and it has a wonderful firm yet gooey consistency, a slight goat tang and a hint of yeastiness on the rind. 
  • Blushing Goat: our take on a washed rind cheese—these little rounds are washed with a kombucha beer for about a month.  These blushing pink-orange beauties have a dense fudgy paste with a rich umami flavor. Limited availability this week.
  • Moonglo:  Our first spring milk batches of this raw milk tomme (sort of like a gouda, but not really) are making their debut at the market and in the farm store. The spring milk produces a lighter, tangy paste with hints of pineapple. The texture of the cheese is a bit more firm than fall milk batches.
  • Applewood Smoked Moonglo: our friends at Urbana’s Black Dog Smoke and Ale House cold-smoked our Moonglo cheese over Applewood chips; the result is a lovely smoky version of our Moonglo. Like our regular Moonglo, it makes a killer grilled cheese (that’s what Black Dog is doing with it at their Urbana location).
  • Chipotle Chile Rub Moonglo: fall-milk Moonglo wedges with top & bottom rinds removed and chipotle chile powder-olive oil rubbed onto the exterior of the cheese; slightly spicy, nice smoky finish. 
  • Malted Moonglo: how about a little beer in your cheese? We made an experimental batch of Moonglo with beer added to the curds before they were pressed into the molds. The cheese has a slightly sweet, malty character.  We think it’s delicious.
  • Pelota Roja: our special (and very limited) Manchego-style goat cheese with guajillo chile rub on the rind. We have a few wedges of this cheese for retail as most it goes to the Frontera Grill-Topolobampa restaurants in Chicago.  Perfect grating-style cheeses, with nutty notes and gentle heat from the chile rub. 
  • Huckleberry Blue: our limited late fall goats’ milk blue cheese—it’s a gateway to blue cheeses; creamy texture, not overly blue-veined (or sharp in a blue way). This cheese is great crumbled on a salad, sliced and warmed on a steak or burger OR served on baguette with a fig jam or walnut balsamic vinegar reduction (this is an amazing combination).

Gelato: We’ve been making lots of gelato and fruit-based sorbettos with all the great local ingredients we have available at this time. We also made a very special (and limited) batch of Pistachio gelato (pure Sicilian pistachio paste). This is a premium flavor @ $12/pint.   I encourage you to bring a cooler with ice packs to the market to keep your gelato in tip top shape as you travel from the market to your home.

  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Salted Caramel Swirl
  • Buttered Pecan (made with Voss Orchard Pecans, Carlyle IL)
  • Blueberry-Chevre (made with blueberries from Pitcher-Patch Farm in Makanda IL)
  • Pistachio Gelato
  • Fresh Mint
  • Peaches & Cream (made with our very own peaches from the PFFC orchard)
  • Nectarine Sorbetto (with nectarines from Mileur Orchard)
  • Peach Sorbetto (with peaches from PFFC)
  • Apricot Sorbetto (made with Apricots from Klug Farm in MI-very limited this week)
  • Sweet Corn Gelato (made with Babb Farms’ sweet corn)

If you don’t know already: we have a new spot at the farmers’ market--Urbana Market at the Square. We are in spot #20 on the south-west (along Illinois Street) end of the market. We are right next to Moore Family Farm.

Farm Store Summer Hours

Starting September 1st, we will be shortening our open hours. Take advantage of the extended hours before summer is gone. Now through the end of August, we are open Wednesdays-Fridays, 3-7 pm, as well as Saturdays and Sundays, 1-4 pm. The farm is beautiful this time of year—lush with plant and animal life alike. Come out after work to unwind. During our open hours, you can savor a scoop of gelato or “build your own” cheese boards—pick out your cheeses, add a stick of salami (Underground Meats) or a jar of jam from Autumn Berry Inspired or pickled veggies, grab some Lucky Pierre bagel chips or Central IL Bake-house baguette bread and we’ll provide the board. You can sit outside under our new pavilion roof and enjoy a glass of wine or beer with cheese! Want to go the total sweet route? How about a root-beer float with a scoop of our gelato? Need to de-stress?

Come visit with the goats. They love to be petted, even in the warm weather.  Shop in our farm store: “The Real Stand.” We’ve got pasture-raised meats and poultry from Bane Family Meats, frozen artisan sausages from Piemonte Sausage Co., pickled veggies and pesto by Sarah (our former gelato maker), locally-grown and milled flours by The Mill at Janie’s Farm and much more. Back in the store this week:  goat milk yogurt by Green Meadows Farm and end of summer sweet corn from Babb Farm. 

U-PICK: U-picking is suspended until further notice.  We hope to have enough apples and maybe pears for u pick later in August. Peaches were just not that plentiful this year.

Farm Dinners: Fall season is not far away, and the September and October farm dinners are filling up fast.  I encourage you to book your tickets now. We have two versions of our 100 Yard Dinner this year: a progressive meal around the farm in mid-September and “ploughman’s feast” style meal in October; menus forthcoming. 

We have added a beer dinner with Half Acre Brewery for Saturday, October 6th. We’ll likely be serving some beer-cheese collaborations, so you won’t want to miss this one if you love micro-brews.

Upcoming Farm Events

Thursday, August 23rd, 5-7 pm “Wine tasting with Michael” Michael Darin, our resident wine guy, will be pouring some easy-drinking summer reds from our wine portfolio.  These reds are light and nuanced and pair well with our bloomy rind cheeses.  Some of the wines to be featured include: Lovegrass Shiraz (Australia), Argiolas Costera (Sardinia), Tarapaca Gran Reserva Organica (Chilean blended red) and Valle Real Montepuciano de Abruzzo (Italy). Michael is always informative and entertaining.  A good time will be had by all. Make a night of it and order a build-your-own cheese board while you’re here too. Please RSVP to our Facebook event so we know how many folks to expect:   https://www.facebook.com/events/235013683815265/

Night of the Living Farm Tuesday, August 28th 7:30 or 8:00 pm start time (will depend on sunset) Join entomologists Dr. Michael Jeffords, Susan Post, and Dr. Joe Spencer from the Illinois Natural History Survey, for a unique exploration of the insects and other creatures that call Prairie Fruits Farm home. As the skies darken, Michael will give a short program on creatures of the night, followed by black-lighting to attract insects from the surrounding landscape. Insects from mayflies to moths are likely to make an appearance.

As soon as the sky is sufficiently dark, we will explore the surrounding forest and prairie with miniature spotlights to see and experience Arthropod activity seldom witnessed. Everything from giant wolf spiders to munching caterpillars to charming tree frogs will likely appear in our flashing beams. We will charge a nominal fee of $10/person (includes a scoop of gelato).  We now have a registration page for this event on our website:   http://www.prairiefruits.com/store/special-events

CU Symphony Orchestra to perform special “environmental” pieces on our farm on Sunday September 23rd, 2-4 pm. Visit Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery for a free gelato social and concert from 2:00 to 4:00 pm on Sunday, September 23 to celebrate Mother Earth's summer harvest! This tribute to our planet will feature musicians from the Champaign-Urbana Symphony Orchestra performing several earth-themed chamber works by CUSO Composer-in-Residence Stacy Garrop. PFFC owners Wes Jarrell and Leslie Cooperband will bring us the latest news about their sustainability efforts on the farm.

Take a tour of the farm, visit the goats, and participate in our "Messages to Gaia" community art project--where you can draw pictures, write poetry or simply share your thoughts about our planet. Come enjoy! This free gelato social is sponsored by CUSO, New Music USA, and Prairie Fruit Farms & Creamery.   

Copyright 2018. Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery, LLC. 2018. 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.