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Posted 12/19/2013 10:34pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

Farm News

We pulled the plug on milking this week, a week earlier than our tradition of milking until Christmas Eve. Most of the does were beyond ready; they had been on a slow path to powering down since we went to once a day milking in early November.  In thinking about this expression “pulling the plug,” the implication is that the electricity (or in our case milk), stops flowing when the connection is lost; the power goes out. When we stop milking, we shut off the hormones that lactating mammals secrete to keep the milk flowing; another image analogous to lost electrical currents and negative feedback loops.  Not being a lover of physics, I am always impressed when biology imitates physics. 

With dry off comes a drastic change in the quality of their hay; high-protein alfalfa is replaced by high-roughage grass hay.  During the first few days of grass, their cacophonous protests are deafening. As hunger sets in, they resign themselves to their winter grassy chow.  Little do they know that all that roughage makes their rumens work overtime, generating heat and helping to keep their bodies warm during this bitter cold time of year.  This morning, I went out to give them a few evergreen boughs to help ease their diet pains (they LOVE pine and spruce boughs—don’t know why, but they love them almost as much as fruit tree leaves)—leftover table decorations from the last farm dinner.  The sound of many goat heads swishing through the grass hay to get to the evergreen boughs warmed my little motherly heart (l love to listen to them eat with gusto). 

Just as quickly as the snows piled up on our farm, they have melted away with the recent rise in temperature.  With the ground now frozen, all that is left are puddles of icy water.  Blue the dog, lover of snow, has located many sticks and large branches that were buried by snow.  I guess I have no excuses now when he comes begging, branch in mouth, to play fetch.  He never gets tired.

Farmers’ Markets and Holiday Schedules

We’re gearing up for a big weekend of holiday farmers’ markets:  Urbana’s Holiday Market inside Lincoln Square Mall and Chicago’s Green City Market inside the Notebaert Nature Museum. Both will be held this Saturday, December 21st , from 8AM to 1PM.  Wes will be attending to our Champaign Urbana patrons, while I’ll venture north to cater to our Chicago fans.  This is your final chance to stock up on our cheeses before we go into winter hiatus.  If you’re in need of advice for a holiday cheese board, just ask us.  What are we bringing?

  • Fresh chevre: plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper
  • Angel Food Brie: the last of the season and boy , is it dense and rich—perfect for the holiday table
  • Sheep milk feta—as I have been telling you, this cheese is worthy of a fancy holiday cheese board, hands down
  • Ichabod—the last few pieces of our pumpkin-ale washed rind sheep milk cheese—don’t be intimidated by its aroma; it loaded with complex flavors
  • Moonglo—the last pieces of the early summer batches are in coolers—they’re yours for the taking
  • Roxanne—perfect for melting on roasted potatoes
  • Eldon—sheep milk blue; a wonderful winter cheese for a winter salad of roasted beets and curly endive (I would throw in some toasted walnuts too)

Yes, there’s still a little gelato left and you really need to buy some to keep your sweet tooth satisfied over the winter. For Urbana:

  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Hazelnut
  • Pumpkin
  • Apple Sorbetto

For Chicago:

  • Pumpkin
  • Honey Lavender
  • Honey Chevre (very limited quantities)
  • Cider Sorbetto

Looking for some last minute non-food gifts?  Why not give them some of our gorgeous goat milk soaps or a stylish Prairie Fruits Farm Goat T—shirt or Hooded Sweat Shirt? Why not gift these to yourself??

If you can’t make it to the markets, this Saturday, we can still ship t-shirts and soap gift boxes out on Monday, the 23rd.  Check these out on our website. ALSO, if you’re still searching for a really unique gift for a special someone, we still have Farm Dinner Presale tickets available for a number of dates in the 2014 Season. Check it out!

Lastly, I would like to wish all of our patrons a restful and peaceful holiday season. We have valued your support over the years and we thank you.  May you all enjoy a delicious winter filled with as much local food as you can find.  HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO ALL.

winter wonderland at the farm

Prairie Fruits Farm winter wonderland!

Posted 12/17/2013 10:29pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

We've been busy in the kitchen slaving over a warm stove to make our first batches of salted goats' milk caramels.  Sarah was stirring, stirring stirring to make a smooth texture while Alisa placed the finishing touches of sea salt over the sheet of creamy caramel.

stirring the caramel


Sarah and Alisa-proud caramel crafters
I've had a sneak preview, and they are delicious!  Come out to the farm tomorrow afternoon (Wednesday the 18th of December) from 3-5pm. We promise to have the barn all nice and warm.  We'll even make some goat milk hot chocolate for you to sip on while you shop.  

The goats have been all dressed up for the holidays too! They're eager to show off their holiday collars with sleigh bells on.

blanca in reindeer garb

We've got plenty of cheese to adorn your holiday tables as well as gelato (how about a baked alaska for that holiday meal dessert??). We'll also be selling some blackberry jam.  Who knows, we might even have a few farm fresh eggs from our ever productive hens.  

Wanting some non-perishable gifts?  We'll have goat milk soaps and Prairie Fruits Farm T-shirts and hooded sweat shirts.  

Stewart's Artisan Breads will have breads, bagels, cookies, granola and biscotti.

Seven Sister's Farm will be here with yarn spun from the wool of her very own sheep.  

Lots of great holiday gifts to be had. The farm is looking beautiful all covered in snow. The roads are clear, so come on out!

Posted 12/17/2013 3:13pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

The Farm Holiday Open House is happening tomorrow, Wednesday, December 19th from 3-5 PM. 

Cheese, gelato, goat milk caramels, jams, breads, soaps, t-shirts and hoodies all for sale!  Come see the goats and sip on some goat milk hot chocolate while you shop!

See you here.


Posted 12/13/2013 5:35pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

Farm News

I have to admit, I am excited about the prospects for snow.  My philosophy about cold is that it goes down easier when accompanied by the white stuff.  Blue, our dog, agrees with me.  With his “cone of shame” now removed and recently bathed, he is ready for a romp in the frozen fluff.  As I write, the storm has descended upon the farm—from the view out of the triangle window in our loft, the windmill is barely visible amidst a torrent of white. Snow falling on the eve of a farmers’ market evokes mixed emotions.  I have always loved the way that snow forces humans to slow down—literally stops us in our tracks as our cars get stuck in the road.  Yet, I am eager to make our way to the Urbana Farmers’ Market tomorrow morning so I can offer our patrons all of the delicious cheeses and yes, even our goats’ milk gelato we have ready for sale. Only time will tell which of these emotions gets played out.


snowy wishes

Markets and On Line Holiday Offerings

Yes, we’re going to attempt to brave the elements and shuffle on down to Lincoln Square Mall in Urbana tomorrow morning to attend their Holiday Farmers’ Market. It runs from 8AM to 1pm. As I mentioned, we’re flush with cheese:

  • Fresh chevre-better stock up now because we’re making our last batch of the season next Monday
  • Sheep milk feta—not just for summer salads, this full-flavored cheese holds its own on a cheese board
  • Black Goat—dense and delish! The last batch of the season
  • Red Dawn—smoked paprika covered gooey-ness—try this one en croute (baked in puff pastry)—you’ll really impress your holiday guests
  • Roxanne—buttery, nutty-just eat it!
  • Moonglo-raw goat milk tang with a creamy mouth finish
  • Eldon-sheep milk blue—your mouth will feel like it’s taken a trip to the Pyrenees.

I know your brain is telling you that snow does not equal gelato, but I just dress it up with some hot chocolate sauce and it becomes a winter dessert.

  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Hazelnut
  • Honey Lavender
  • Great Pumpkin
  • Autumn Berry Sorbetto
  • Apple Sorbetto
  • Winesap Cider Sorbetto

Looking for locally-made non-perishable gifts for your loved ones? How about our lovely, gentle and all natural goat milk soaps? Don’t forget our beautiful new American Apparel Goat T-Shirts and Hooded Sweat Shirts.  The benefits of shopping the farmers’ market on a snowy day is that you won’t have to fight the crowds like you will at the mall. 

Other Happenings Both Virtual and Real

 Let’s say you can’t make it to the farmer’s market this Saturday (not because of a little snow storm I hope).  We’ve now got some online gift options for you to consider on our website. We have a gift box of assorted artisan cheeses, our ever-popular t-shirts, our stylish hooded sweatshirts and a gift pack of goat milk soaps.

How about giving the gift of a Bread Cheese and Gelato CSA for the 2014 Season? We’re offering three pick up locations next year: Bloomington, Normal and Prairie Fruits Farm.  Our bread shares will be baked lovingly by our very own Stewart Pequinot of Stewart’s Artisan Breads. Check it out! 

Looking for the star at the top of the gift giving tree? We’re offering a VERY SPECIAL pre-sale of select farm dinner tickets to the 2014 Season. We don’t have the themes or chefs posted yet, but we do have our dates selected. We’re offering up to 6 seats (2 per purchase only) per dinner date as part of this presale. The remaining seats (40 per dinner date) will go on sale sometime in late February.  For details and to make ticket purchases, please go to our Showclix page.

Wednesday, December 18th from 3 to 5 PM, we’ll be hosting a holiday on farm sale.  Cheese, gelato, salted goat milk caramels—these are some of the offerings we’re planning to have.  We may have a few house made jams as well.  Stewart’s Artisan Breads will be here with hearty breads, bagels, cookies, biscotti and granola. Cathe Capel of Seven Sisters Farm will be here with beautifully colorful yarn spun from her own sheeps’ wool.  Jill Cummings, the creator of our goat milk soaps, will be here to talk about how she makes our soaps and why they’re so good for you.  We’ll probably warm up some beverages for you to enjoy while you shop and visit with the goats. 

Become a patron of our documentary film “A farmer’s road.” The filmakers’ IndieGoGo campaign is well underway and they have raised over one-third of the funds needed to hire a professional film editor.  I would consider making a donation to this cause as holiday gift TODAY.  The footage is beautiful (Central Illinois never looked so good) and the film promises to highlight the joys and struggles of local food farmers overall.  They have less than a month to go on their campaign, so don’t wait until after the holidays. Thank you!!

Posted 12/5/2013 6:30pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

Farm News

I’ve been thinking about the tricks that grey skies and damp air play on a person’s mind these days.  The dampened light lulls me into a strange sense of calm and tranquility. Yet, the roller coaster temperatures of December don’t give me time to adjust to the onset of cold.  I need time to come to grips with winter on the prairie.  I need some consistency.  Foggy mornings in the ‘50’s delude my body into thinking we’re in Oregon.  When the temperature plummets to 20 and the wind cuts through my Carhart jacket, my body reacts violently.  I need more gradual change.

I’ve been walking our dog on a leash this past week as he recovers from a large gash on his underside (the poor thing has to wear a cone on his head and is not allowed to run free—he perceives this as pure punishment). This ritual gives me time to walk in the elements, to reflect on the feel of the air, the color of the dying vegetation (although our grass is still green!), the smell of the exposed black soil.  We walk along the edge of our prairie—there are few signs of life, save for the coyote scat and some hawk pellets (what they regurgitate).  Blue, peripheral vision impaired, keeps his cone head close to the ground, sniffing for rodents.  His posture reminds of our pigs as the angled their massive heads downward to excavate dirt and root out the goodies embedded in the soil.


Blue looking forelorn

In the cheeserie, the ascent of milk solids has me thinking that the goats have become sheep—late lactation sheep, no less.  The curd is dense, with a thin skiff of whey on the surface; pure joy to work with. We made our last batch of Angel Food brie today.  The ladling of this thick curd, slithering into each mold, was rhythmic; cheese tango in a hot make room.  The once-a-day milking experiment has resulted in record breaking yields.  Just when I think it can’t go any higher, it does.  As we tasted some black goat that was made a couple of weeks ago, fudgy was the descriptor of the moment. 

A plug for WILL’s documentary “Course Work”-the antidote to winter!

I am not really big on self- promotion, but I know that the folks at WILL Media have put together a first rate documentary film about the making of a farm dinner at Prairie Fruits Farm. The film will air on WILL-TV this coming Monday night, December 9th at 7:00pm. If you haven’t seen the trailer yet, check it out.  Wes and I will be in the WILL studios on Monday night to help the station raise some funds. We hope you’ll tune in and give generously.  Thanks for your support. 

Farmers’ Markets

We’re back to two farmers’ markets this Saturday, December 7th. I will be waking before the chickens to greet our Chicago patrons at the Green City Market inside the Notebaert Nature Museum, while Wes will hold down the Urbana market.  In addition to our cheeses, we’ll be bringing some of our beautiful goat milk soaps and our new PFF Goat T-shirts and hooded sweatshirts (these are for Urbana market goers only).  If you’re in need of holiday gifts—come see us first! For cheese, we’ll have:

  • Plenty of that rich ‘n creamy chevre—plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper
  • Black Goat—this is the final batch of the season, so come ‘n get it while it lasts
  • Red Dawn—smoked paprika dusted bloomy rind—need I say more?
  • Sheep milk feta--whey-brine aging has been very very good to this cheese—it just keeps getting better all the time.
  • Roxanne—man o man! Buttery is the operative word for this cheese
  • Moonglo—think tang, think nuts, think pinot noir (to accompany this cheese)
  • Eldon—sheep milk blue; if salted caramel could be a cheese, it would be our Eldon

Yes, it’s gonna be cold on Saturday, but don’t let the outside temperatures deter you from your weekly gelato purchases (the good news is, it won’t melt on your way home!):

Urbana will have:

  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Hazelnut
  • Honey Lavender
  • Honey Chevre
  • Apple Sorbetto
  • Cider Sorbetto

Green City Market will have:

  • Cider Sorbetto
  • Quince-Apple Sorbetto
  • Apple Sorbetto
  • Honey Chevre
  • Honey Lavender
  • Pumpkin the Great

Remember, if the weather outside is frightful, the inside farmers’ markets will surely be delightful. Come see us this Saturday.  

Posted 11/29/2013 9:58pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

Don't forget to come visit us at the farm tomorrow. We won't be attending the Urbana Holiday Market inside Lincoln Square Mall, so it will be your only chance this weekend to get our products. Cheese, apple cider, gelato, goat milk soaps and our new t-shirts and hooded sweat shirts. 

The goats are looking forward to seeing you.Come on out. It should be a beatiful DAY!

Posted 11/27/2013 8:39am by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

Farm Open House this weekend
Stuffed to the gills and looking for a way to keep the family peace after the thanksgiving feast? Think no further.  Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery will host an open house on Saturday, November 30th from 2 to 5PM.  Come visit with the mostly pregnant goats, enjoy the frollicking Nigerian Dwarf doelings and sample some delicious farm products.  PLEASE NOTE: WE WON'T BE ATTENDING THE URBANA HOLIDAY MARKET ON SATURDAY THE 30TH, SO THE FARM OPEN HOUSE IS YOUR ONLY CHANCE THIS WEEKEND TO BUY OUR PRODUCTS.

If you're looking for locally-produced gifts, how about our goat milk soaps or our brand new Prairie Fruits Farm T-shirts (same hip design, NEW colors!!) and Prairie Fruits Farm Hooded Sweatshirt (you asked, we listened).  

new PFF t shirts

We'll also have some our delicious organic apple cider for sale--both half gallons and cups of warmed mulled cider. cheese, of course AND gelato by the pint.  We're so close to town--it's an easy drive on North Lincoln Ave.


Help fund the final phases of the making of a documentary film about Prairie Fruits Farm.

For the past three years, John Murray, a documentary film-maker from Tribeca Flashpoint Media Institute in Chicago has been traveling to our farm to shoot lots and lots of footage of our farm throughout the seasons.  The film is now ready for professional editing (currently titled "A Famer's Road) and he's launched an IndiGoGo campaign to raise funds for the editing.  The product will be a feature length documentary that tells the story of our farm--our challenges, our rewards--the warts and the beauty of it all.  We hope you'll check out the campaign and give whatever you can. 

Posted 11/27/2013 8:37am by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

Farm Open House this weekend
Stuffed to the gills and looking for a way to keep the family peace after the thanksgiving feast? Think no further.  Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery will host an open house on Saturday, November 30th from 2 to 5PM.  Come visit with the mostly pregnant goats, enjoy the frollicking Nigerian Dwarf doelings and sample some delicious farm products.  

If you're looking for locally-produced gifts, how about our goat milk soaps or our brand new Prairie Fruits Farm T-shirts (same hip design, NEW colors!!) and Prairie Fruits Farm Hooded Sweatshirt (you asked, we listened).  

new PFF t shirts

We'll also have some our delicious organic apple cider for sale--both half gallons and cups of warmed mulled cider. cheese, of course AND gelato by the pint.  We're so close to town--it's an easy drive on North Lincoln Ave.


Help fund the final phases of the making of a documentary film about Prairie Fruits Farm.

For the past three years, John Murray, a documentary film-maker from Tribeca Flashpoint Media Institute in Chicago has been traveling to our farm to shoot lots and lots of footage of our farm throughout the seasons.  The film is now ready for professional editing (currently titled "A Famer's Road) and he's launched an IndiGoGo campaign to raise funds for the editing.  The product will be a feature length documentary that tells the story of our farm--our challenges, our rewards--the warts and the beauty of it all.  We hope you'll check out the campaign and give whatever you can. 

Posted 11/26/2013 6:47pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

Farm Open House this weekend
Stuffed to the gills and looking for a way to keep the family peace after the thanksgiving feast? Think no further.  Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery will host an open house on Saturday, November 30th from 2 to 5PM.  Come visit with the mostly pregnant goats, enjoy the frollicking Nigerian Dwarf doelings and sample some delicious farm products.  

If you're looking for locally-produced gifts, how about our goat milk soaps or our brand new Prairie Fruits Farm T-shirts (same hip design, NEW colors!!) and Prairie Fruits Farm Hooded Sweatshirt (you asked, we listened).  

We'll also have some our delicious organic apple cider for sale--both half gallons and cups of warmed mulled cider. cheese, of course AND gelato by the pint.  We're so close to town--it's an easy drive on North Lincoln Ave.


Help fund the final phases of the making of a documentary film about Prairie Fruits Farm.

For the past three years, John Murray, a documentary film-maker from Tribeca Flashpoint Media Institute in Chicago has been traveling to our farm to shoot lots and lots of footage of our farm throughout the seasons.  The film is now ready for professional editing (currently titled "A Famer's Road) and he's launched an IndiGoGo campaign to raise funds for the editing.  The product will be a feature length documentary that tells the story of our farm--our challenges, our rewards--the warts and the beauty of it all.  We hope you'll check out the campaign and give whatever you can. 

Posted 11/21/2013 6:33pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

Farm News

The mid November pregnancy check is becoming a late fall tradition here at Prairie Fruits Farm.  On Wednesday, the second year veterinary students arrived with portable ultrasound machines in tow to have a peak at our does’ uteruses.  Given the number of does with no obvious mating notes next their names on the breeding plan, I was especially anxious to witness the state of their gestations.  Had we missed their heat cycles, were they bred during the pre-breeding buck breakouts, were they still open?—so many unknowns and the girls weren’t talking. As the first group filed into the milking parlor in late morning, the expressions on their faces were a mix of delight (ooh, more grain!) and confusion (weren’t we just up here a couple of hours ago??).  The first group is always tested for patience as they endure the novice hands of students learning the proper amounts of lubricant (apparently, you can never have too much lube), pressure and exact position of the ultrasound wand to get the best glimpse en utero.  With the lights off in the milking parlor to better see the ultrasound screen, I waited, clipboard in hand, for the signs of success: sounds of excitement from their instructor, followed by “freeze that screen,” followed by “she’s pregnant with at least two.”  In some cases, I could corroborate their evidence of pregnancy with notes about dates showing wet tails or mountings.  A few of these corroborations were met with suspicion: the signs of pregnancy indicated that the gestation was a lot further along than my recorded breeding dates.  What does this mean?  Rex was a busy little boy in late September, and we should prepare ourselves for late February births. 

Now that we have a better idea of who is bred, we’ve started to dry off the pregnant does whose milk production has plummeted.  This afternoon, we reorganized the doe barn into milkers and dry does.  As with any shuffling of the housing deck, there ensues a cascade of head butting to re-establish the doe hierarchy—even sisters, Nina and Maxine, who had been separated during breeding, had to duke it out.  The bucks were moved to start breeding our “ladies of James Bond” doelings.  Rejuvenated with the prospect of fresh faces, the bucks’ excitement could not be curtailed.  The doelings have a different agenda for the time being, but soon they’ll stop running and hiding under the hay feeders. 

Thanksgiving happens next Thursday. For me, this holiday has come to symbolize the ultimate celebration of local foods and the farmers who bring them to the holiday table.  Locally raised, heritage-breed turkeys, pumpkins, apples, squashes, turnips, fennel, beets, carrots, onions, garlic, salad greens—it all comes from a relatively short travel distance. It’s become so easy to eat close to the ground.  Even the cranberries are relatively closely grown in Wisconsin or Michigan. We are thankful for this ease, we are thankful for our fellow farmers who raise this beautiful food, and we celebrate the profound deliciousness that these local foods represent.   

Farmers’ Markets

We’re attending two holiday markets this coming Saturday, November 23rd: Urbana’s Holiday Market (8AM to 1PM inside Lincoln Square Mall) and Chicago’s Green City Market (8AM to 1PM second floor the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum on Cannon Drive). We’re doing our part to adorn your holiday tables with locally produced dairy products.  To help those of you who might feel overwhelmed by selecting the perfect cheeses for a holiday cheese board, I have taken the liberty of selecting three distinct Prairie Fruits Farm cheeses for you:

PFF holiday cheese board
Little Bloom on the Prairie –our ooey gooey camembert-style goat milk cheese, Ichabod, a single-batch, pumpkin-ale wash rind sheep milk cheese (we made this last year, and it was a big hit) and Eldon Sheep Milk Blue, a sweet-salty and slightly crumbly blue cheese.  You can serve these cheeses with apples, honey and quince paste. If you’ve got some toasted walnuts, I would definitely add those to the mix. 

Don’t forget the other cheeses we’ll have on hand:

  • Plenty of fresh chevre (it’s super creamy as the goats’ milk butterfat is off the charts right now): plain, herbs de Provence and cracked black peppercorn
  • Angel Food Brie: so good, it doesn’t need any explaining
  • Sheep milk feta (this makes a beautiful alternative cheese board cheese if drizzled with good olive oil and served with fresh herbs)
  • Moonglo—our raw goat milk tomme—you could definitely shave this on your mashed potatoes if you really want to impress your dinner guests
  • Roxanne—a firm, buttery sheep milk cheese—try grating it over roasted brussel sprouts. I can't wait to try this!

Don’t forget gelato for the pies you plan to make:

  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Hazelnut
  • Ginger
  • Pumpkin
  • Honey Chevre
  • Honey Lavender
  • Apple Sorbetto
  • Cider Sorbetto
  • Quince Apple Sorbetto

Lastly, if you’re looking to get a jump on gift giving, why not try some of our beautiful goat milk soaps. They’re made naturally by the folks at Red Barn Farm with three ingredients: our goat milk, organic olive oil and organic coconut oil.  I love their simplicity, their lather and the way they soften your skin. 

For our Urbana market goers, we’ll have half gallons of pasteurized apple cider made with our very own organic Fuji, Mutsu and Winesap apples. 

Lots of great food; all of it local. We hope you’ll adorn your own Thanksgiving tables with all that your farmers have to offer.  We thank you. HAPPY THANKSGIVING!