News

Welcome to Leslie's Blog.
Posted 10/15/2011 6:24am by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Greetings all:
I forgot to mention a great happening in dowtown Champaign today from 1-3PM. Deborah Niemann, author of the book "Homegrown and Handmade" will be signing copies of her new book TODAY. For details check out the flyer by clicking on the link below.
http://sfc.smallfarmcentral.com/dynamic_content/uploadfiles/167/niemann.pdf
Posted 10/13/2011 12:30pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Farm News
I'm sending out this week's newsletter a bit early this week as Wes and I are headed up to Chicago for a farm to fork soiree at Terzo Piano (the restaurant in the Chicago Art Institute).  Our farmstead cheeses will be featured in the dinner along with several other local farmers' products. If you're in Chicago, we'll be making a stop at the Lake Street store of Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread and Wine this afternoon before our dinner at Terzo Piano. From 4-6PM, we'll be sampling out of some of our cheese in celebration of "American Cheese Month." Come stop by to say hi if you're able.
This week's fall leaves have moved quickly from crimson and gold on the trees to dull brown on the ground. Today's gentle rains are accelerating this transformation, but they're a welcome drink to our garden nonetheless.  Goat breeding is progressing very nicely.  The boys are getting the job done, and the girls are cooperating.  Interestingly, several of the does have appeared mysteriously in the pens of bucks other than the one they were supposed to be with, evoking the Crosby Stills and Nash song "Love the one your with" (apparently, they have their preferences and don't always respect this motto).  We weighed our yearling doelings this week to get a sense of how they are growing and whether or not they'll be big enough to breed in November. To our amazement, most of the doelings weighed over 80 pounds and a couple weighed in at 97 pounds!! Don't know what's in their drinking water, but whatever it is, they are huge!!  They are starting to cycle into heat, so within a few weeks, we'll start breeding them as well. 
Farmers' Markets
We're attending TWO farmers' markets this Saturday, October 15th: Urbana and Chicago's Green City Market. We won't be in Bloomington this Saturday, but we will be there the last Saturday in October. We don't have a lot of variety of cheese this week as milk production is slowing down.  However, the milk is starting to increase in richness, making for some fantastic chevre. 
We have:
  • Fresh chevre--plain, herbs de Provence and cracked pepper
  • Angel Food-very limited quantities so come early if you want to get some
  • Goat Milk Ricotta-we've started making this ricotta due to the absence of our sheep milk. It is very delicate and sweet and delish! Very limited quantities too!
  • Moonglo--goes great with sliced apples or pears that are shining at the farmers' markets right now
  • Mollisol Pecorino--perfect for this cooler weather cooking--grate on pasta, stews, casserols

For Urbana, gelato continues:
  • Vanilla--get some to put on an apple crisp!
  • Chocolate
  • Hazelnut (limited quantities)
  • Sicilian Pistachio
  • Honey Lavender
  • Fresh Ginger
  • Cinnamon--also great on an apple pie or even a pumpkin pie!!!
  • Sweet Potato
  • Aronia Berry-Apple Cider Sorbetto
Stock up now while supply lasts. As our milk production goes down, so too will the gelato availability.  Happy Fall Eating!
Posted 10/6/2011 8:35pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
FARM NEWS
The weather this week says "august" but the calendar says "october." This means one VERY important thing at Prairie Fruits Farm: it's time to breed.  As you may recall, you must give birth to produce milk, and to give birth, you must be bred (speaking for the goats, that is).  As I learn more about genetics and pedigrees and witness the results of various goat pairings over the past few years (their offspring), I have gained more confidence in my match-making skills. With the help of our part-time milking assistant-Caroline--who has many years of experience with breeding, showing and even judging dairy goats, we sat down a few weeks ago with our list of does and our available bucks to decide who to pair with whom. "Match maker, match maker, make me a match, find me a find, catch me a catch." I'm sure the goat girls are singing this tune as I write. I know the bucks are!
Eddie, our tall spotted Nubian with a neck the girth of a linebacker, has the largest harem of goat ladies.  Rex and Mocha, our two La Mancha bucks, have smaller groups, but little Rex (he was born last year, and he's a compact but solid little guy) has the challenge of breeding some of our largest Nubian X La Mancha does. So far, the signs indicate that he is up to the challenge!
We have a small group of does with whom we'll try artificial insemination. This technique, when successful, helps bring in new genetics to our herd without having to buy another buck. It is more difficult to perform on goats compared to cows, but we hope to have some successes this year.
CHEESE NEWS
We've got TWO new cheeses for you to try this Saturday at the farmers' markets. "Black goat," named affectionately (by Nat and Alison, our cheesemakers) after one of the doelings born on our farm this spring, is a mold-ripened goat milk round lightly dusted in ash. We made a batch of this special cheese for our 100 yard dinner, and we made lots of extra so we could share it with our farmers' market customers.
black goat
The cheese has a creamy slightly dry mouth feel and a citrus finish. It goes really well with blackberry jam, but you can enjoy it by itself on a nice piece of bread or in a salad.  The other "new" cheese (well it's a return of an old favorite) is our goats' milk ricotta. If you like our sheep milk ricotta, you will LOVE our goats' milk ricotta--it is more delicate in texture and tastes of fresh sweet goat milk.  Remember, this Indian Summer-like weather is PERFECT for enjoying ricotta--just drizzle our honey on it, slice up some apples, and you've got an elegant breakfast or dessert. If you're looking for other recipe ideas, just ask our cheese mongers at the farmers' markets this Saturday and they'll give you some great ideas. 
Farmers' Markets and Gelato
We're attending two farmers' markets this Saturday: Urbana and Oak Park. For our Oak Park market goers, we have only TWO MORE markets to attend (Saturday, October 8th and October 22nd), so now is the time to stock up on chevre (you can freeze this cheese without compromising its quality) and other cheeses. We will also have our honey for sale-we have very limited quantities of our honey this year, so once we sell what we have, that is it until next year.  The drought really took its toll on the bees this summer, and their honey production was stunted as a result of the high heat and lack of water.  In addition to black goat and ricotta cheeses, we'll be bringing:
  • plenty of chevre (plain, herbs de Provence, cracked peppercorn)
  • Angel Food (limited quantities)
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie (limited quantities)
  • Moonglo-our raw goat milk tomme
For Urbana Market goers, Stewart put the full court press on the gelato batch freezer this week.  The warm weather expected on Saturday should make a great excuse to buy lots of gelato. We have lots of flavors for you this week too:
  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Hazelnut
  • Pistachio (very limited quantities)
  • Honey Lavender
  • Cinnamon--made with an infusion of cinnamon bark in the gelato base
  • Sweet Potato-Maple (this gelato screams fall!!!)
  • Blueberry Sorbetto (the last of the season)
  • Pear-Ginger Sorbetto
  • Aronia berry Apple cider Sorbetto
Enjoy it while you can!!


Posted 9/29/2011 9:50pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

baby Muscovy Ducks
Adult Muscovy Ducks
FARM NEWS
It was just a few short months ago that 30 Muscovy Ducklings arrived at the US Post Office in Champaign, destined for our farm.  They ate, they drank, they grew, and today the remaining pin feathers were plucked from their naked bodies in the Prairie Fruits Farm kitchen. This Saturday, October 1st, we and our dinner guests will sit down to enjoy a five course meal prepared with close to 100% (well maybe 98%--we don't grow salt, sugar cane, pepper or olives for oil)
of the ingredients grown within 100 yards of the dinner table. This meal is the apex for our gardener Rachel, who has tended the garden beds with a level of care reserved for new borns.  We have such diversity of vegetables that our chef, Alisa, had a really hard time designing the menu.  The sweet potatoes were dug, the kale and chard cut, the dry beans shelled, the tomatoes placed carefully in totes to finish their ripening in the warmth of the house. We picked the paucity of apples from the orchard, and pressed them into cider. Emil, our beekeeper, brought over his old fashioned wooden cider press, and we threw the not-so-beautiful apples into the hopper. We hand cranked the press down onto the crushed apples and the juice dribbled out into a pan.  Although we only yielded about three gallons, we poured ourselves a little glass and made a toast to the harvest (it's a tradition in Emil's family to toast the first pressing of apples).  We fed all the goats with the apple "mash" (leftovers from the pressing), and they gobbled them down with gusto (should make the milk taste extra sweet I imagine). The cheese makers, Alison and Nat, were busy in the cheeserie crafting a special cheese for the dinner with our luscious goat milk (it's a surprise, so I won't tell you about it just now).  The farm hummed with the fervor of busy hands preparing lots of food for this "EXTREME LOCAL" meal.  I can't wait.
FARMERS' MARKETS
This Saturday, we're attending THREE farmers' markets: Urbana, Bloomington and Chicago's Green City Market.  We don't have a lot of cheese diversity this week, but everything is tasting really great right now. We have:
  • Fresh chevre-plain, herbs de Provence and cracked pepper (sorry, but heirloom tomato is done for the season)
  • Angel Food
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie
  • Moonglo
  • Mollisol Pecorino
We will also have some of our farmstead honey, although our supply this year is VERY limited.  For those of you in Urbana, we've got some scrumptious gelato flavors for you to try and buy:
  • Simply Vanilla
  • Luscious Chocolate
  • Sicilan Pistachio
  • Margot's Mint (limited quantity)
  • Fresh Ginger
  • Butter Pecan
  • Honey Lavender
  • Blueberry Sorbetto
For our Bloomington customers, we'll have our sign up sheet for gauging interest in a cheese buying club or CSA for next year.  If you're interested in this idea and you haven't already given us your name and email, please make sure you sign the sheet.  We'll be sending out a questionnaire later this fall or early winter to determine the best model for this buying club. 
Posted 9/26/2011 7:32pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
I usually view the departure of the hummingbirds from our feeder as a gauge that fall has solidly settled upon the farm. They're still here-fighting for positions on the humingbird nectar feeder. Nonetheless, we have decided that the end of the September is long enough to offer our weekly farm open-house, on farm sale. Tomorrow, Tuesday, September 27th is really the last day of the season for on farm sales. So, we're going for the gusto. Tomorrow from 3-6PM, we'll have cheese (chevre, little bloom on the prairie, some angel food brie--I think and maybe a little bit of Roxanne), honey, tomatoes, and maybe a few other goodies from our garden for sale.  Of course, there will be gelato both as single servings and pints:
  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Sicilian Pistachio
  • Honey Lavender
  • Margot's Mint
  • Butter Pecan *** (pecans are from Southern IL)
  • Blueberry Sorbetto
If you haven't had the experience of being served from our sleek Italian gelato dipping cabinet, this is your last chance in 2011! You can even get more than one flavor in a cup.
The star of the last sale will be Stewart's Artisan Breads Rosh Hashanah Challah with or without raisins. This is the traditional round challah eaten during the celebration of the Jewish New Year! Pick up some of our farmstead honey too, and you'll have the makings for a locally sweet New Year!!! We have limited quantities of this challah, so come early! We hope to see you here.
Posted 9/22/2011 9:25pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Lady Beetles on Buckwheat
FARM NEWS
Mid September seems to be the time of abundant predatory insects. All of sudden, there's  an explosion of preying mantis, orb spiders, parasitic wasps and yes the lovely lady beetle. In the case of the lady beetle, we released a bunch last week to tackle an aphid problem we were having on some of beans.  The extreme dry weather we experienced this summer created conditions in the garden that were more similar to a greenhouse than to growing outdoors! The lady beetles love aphids, and they devoured them quickly.  The buckwheat was planted in between vegetable rows to attract other aptly named beneficial insects. They're beneficial because they are voracious predators, and they tend to predate the "bad" bugs--tomato hornworms, cucumber beetles, etc.  The tomato hornworm, the catepillar stage of a beautiful sphynx moth, can defoliate a tomato plant in a matter of hours. A tiny wasp lays her eggs in the hornworm, and as the wasp larvae grow inside the catepillar, they send it signals to crawl up to the top of a plant and die.  The adult wasps hatch out of the dead catepillar, and the cycle repeats itself.
The preying mantis are the most intriguing and seemingly intelligent of the predatory insects. They are the kind of predator that lies very still until its desired prey comes along.  In the case of the mantids, they change color to blend into their background to make the unsuspecting prey not realize that they are lurking close by.  Today, we spotted a preying mantis on a hot pink zinnia flower, waiting (unfortunately) to eat the heads off of honey bees or other pollinators (not exactly a desirable predator-prey interaction). The mantis had disguised herself in a mottled pink color to match the flower she was hiding on. Such is life on the "Serengetti" of the vegetable garden.
September is also the time of year that our prairie explodes with the yellow, purple, pink and blue hues of goldenrod, bluestem and asters.  If you get a chance to come out to the farm next Tuesday, I encourage you to take a walk down to our prairie so you can experience it for yourselves.  I wade right into the nearly eight-foot tall prairie grasses, and I am transported back a couple of hundred years ago to pre drainage ditch and tile drain days. 
FARMERS' MARKET NEWS
This Saturday, September 23rd, we're attending two farmers' markets: Urbana and Oak Park. Our repertoire of cheeses is diminished in diversity, but what we have is tasting really great. Expect:
  • Fresh chevre-plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper (heirloom tomatoe chevre is done for the season)
  • A little bit of the sheep milk feta--this really is the last of it
  • Angel Food--our delicate and delicious goat milk brie
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie-just turning ripe, the cheese has a nice firm center
  • Roxanne--our raw sheep milk cheese with notes of butter and grass
  • Moonglo-our raw goat tomme, whose rind is washed in a tea made from the leaves of the Moonglow pear--nice tang and nutty flavors
  • Mollisol Pecorino-our raw sheep milk romano grating style cheese
BACK THIS WEEK: OUR FARMSTEAD HONEY--We've got 8 oz and 16 oz glass jars for sale as well as boxes of honey comb (an EXCELLENT accompaniment to our cheeses) and a few jars of honey with comb inside. 
For Urbana Market Goers, Wes has been busy spinning frozen confections. The gelato repertoire this week includes both single servings and pints of:
  • Vanilla
  • Luscious Chocolate
  • Piedmontese Hazelnut
  • Fresh Ginger
  • Coffee
  • Margot's Mint (pints only)
  • Blueberry Sorbetto
  • Concord Grape Sorbetto
Lastly, Tuesday, September 27th is OUR FINAL ON FARM SALE OF THE SEASON--In addition to our cheeses, gelato, jams and veggies, we will be selling the traditional round Challah for the Jewish New Year-Rosh Hashanah (starts Wednesday evening). We will have challah with and without blond raisins.  More details to follow on Monday. 
Posted 9/19/2011 8:02pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
I completely forgot to mention the veggies and jams we'll have for sale tomorrow in addition to the cheese and gelato:
Tomatoes of all shapes, sizes and flavor profiles
Swiss Chard bunches
Kale bunches
peach butter (maybe some honey too)
Hopefully, this is even GREATER reason to come out to the farm tomorrow.
Sorry for multiple emails.
Posted 9/19/2011 7:08pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Greetings!
Yes, it sort of feels like fall out there, but summer is trying to suck us back in with these balmy humid winds.  Tomorrow should be a great day for an afternoon foray to our farm--come on out between 3-6PM in the afternoon. Remember, this the second to last on open-house, farm-sale of the year, so take advantage of the opportunity while you can.  We'll have plenty of cheese for you (chevre, Little Bloom on the Prairie, maybe some Angel Food, some Moonglo and a little bit of Roxanne).  Wes is at the gelato batch freezer helm this week (Stewart's on vacation) and he promises we'll have some mighty flavorful gelato flavors in both single serving and pint sizes:
  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Hazelnut
  • Fresh Ginger
  • Margot's Mint
  • Blueberry AND Blueberry-Lemon Verbena Sorbetto (two versions of blueberry-the last of the season!!)
  • Concord Grape Sorbetto
Flatland Food Foundry's First "Moveable Kitchen" Kickoff Event: Tomato Canning Workshop at Prairie Fruits Farm PLEASE SIGN UP AT THE COMMON GROUND FOOD COOP!
So far, we have had only a few people sign up for our tomato canning workshop this coming Thursday, September 22nd. There are three time slots: 10-12, 12-2 and 2-4.  We can accommodate 4 people per time slot. The cost is $15 per person and includes jars for canning, instruction and a handout on how to properly can acid foods like tomatoes, recipes for tomato sauce(and some sauce to take home) and overall great time with our chef, Alisa DeMarco.  The deadline for signup is Wednesday, September 21st at 12 NOON, so don't delay if you want to come.  To sign up, you must go to the Common Ground Cooperative and ask one of the folks at the checkout for the signup sheet for the Flatlander Food Foundry's Tomato Canning Workshop.
Posted 9/15/2011 5:41pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Farm News
Yesterday's cold front that brought us some much needed rain ushered in some cold air. It's the kind of abrupt weather change that sets the does' minds toward breeding and the bucks' scent in full airborne dispersion.  Eddie, one of our Nubian breeding bucks, realized that the hotwire fence wasn't very hot, so he escaped from his pasture six times this morning to get closer to the does. Thankfully, Wes found the breaks in the electricalfencing system, and now the wire gives a good strong jolt when touched. We control the breeding time very carefully here, to ensure that most of our does kid in March and April.  The winter break works out very well for both goat and human around here.

We decided to cut our southernmost hayfield on Monday for the final cutting of the season.  Despite the drought, the alfalfa had grown nicely and was very leafy and tender (perfect hay for next year's freshening time--that is when the goats have their babies and "freshen" with new milk). Although we REALLY needed the rains yesterday, we were secretly hoping it would have waited until Friday so that we could have baled this gorgeous alfalfa. Mother Nature didn't totally cooperate, but Wes is raking it as I write, so we are hoping it will still be loaded with lots of protein and nutrients when we bale it on Saturday. 
Market News
Thanks to the folks who ventured out to the farm on Tuesday.  We had a really nice showing of people. We have only TWO MORE Tuesday afternoon sales left for the season, so if you have been holding off coming out here, now is the time.  We'll continue to have our cheeses and gelato for sale as well as produce out of our garden. We should have some heirloom tomatoes and maybe some fall greens (chard, kale) for next Tuesday.  Details to follow in my Monday newsletter.
Regarding our farmers' market season, we've still got plenty of cheese, gelato and sometimes honey that we're bringing to the markets.  This Saturday, September 17th, we're attending THREE markets--Urbana, Bloomington and Chicago's Green City Market. YES, that is true-two Saturday's in a row for Green City Market.  This means we won't be back at Green City until October 1st, so stock up on our cheeses this weekend.  For our Bloomington Market goers, I will at the market this Saturday, because a) it's been awhile and I miss our Bloomington patrons and b) I would like to talk with our customers about the possibility of doing a once per month Buying Club-CSG (that's Community Supported Goat--like a CSA but with cheese only) for next year.  We have a solid and loyal customer base in Bloomington (THANK YOU), but it hasn't been enough business to sustain us as a biweekly attendee at the Bloomington Farmers' Market. SO, I'll have a sign up sheet at the market on Saturday to gauge patron's interest in a buying club-CSG for next season.  I look forward to seeing folks in Bloomington and to answering any questions you might have about this buying club concept.
What are we taking to the markets this Saturday?
  • Lots of luscious chevre--plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper and heirloom tomato (our supply of Juliette tomatoes will be drawing to a close soon, so stock up on this wonderful cheese-tomato concoction)
  • Last of the sheep milk feta--this is it for the season
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie--our rich goat's milk camembert
  • Angel Food (limited supply, probably available at Urbana only)
  • Moonglo--our raw goat milk tomme--tasting very buttery from the May milk (early pasture)
  • Roxanne-our supply of this smooth, semi-hard raw sheep milk brebis is dwindling as well
  • Mollisol Pecorino-our hard, grating style Pecorino Romano made with last year's summer sheep milk
For our Urbana Market Goers, we got lots of smooth and creamy gelato for you--both in pints and single servings:
  • Simply Vanilla
  • Luscious Chocolate
  • Sicilian Pistacchio
  • Margot's Mint
  • Honey-Ginger Chevre
  • Coffee
  • White Peach-Lemon & Orange Thyme Gelato
  • Blueberry Lemon Verbena Sorbetto
  • White Peach Sorbetto (very limited quantity)
The forecast calls for temperatures in the 70's--definitely still respectable for enjoying gelato.  We look forward to seeing you at the Markets!
Posted 9/12/2011 3:20pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Greetings.  Many folks consider September as a time when the abundance of locally-grown foods diminishes. This is FAR from true. While Blue Moon Farm won't be making it out to our farm through the rest of this month, we will be offering some of our vegtables and herbs from our garden during our Tuesday afternoon Farm Sale. PLEASE NOTE OUR CHANGE IN HOURS; 3-6PM ONLY!!!
We'll have some of our prolific "Juliette" tomatoes for sale as well as limited quantities of fresh herb bunches and a lovely little cucumber called "Mexican sour Gherkin." It's a little round ball with white spots--the taste is a bit tart--great for pickling OR simply eating fresh in a salad. The texture is nice and crunchy. We'll also have some okra for sale. For those of you afraid of the slime factor inherent with okra, here's a simple way to prepare them that results in NO slime:
1. cut okra pods crosswise into 1/4 thick pieces.
2. Mince a couple of cloves of garlic and saute them for a minute in a hot saute pan with some olive oil.
3. Add the okra slices and stir to cook.  Sprinkle some salt as the okra cooks for about 5 minutes.
4. Sprinkle some corn meal to coat the okra pieces and continue sauteeing until golden brown. Add more salt to taste.
5. Squeeze lemon juice over the golden brown cornmeal-coated okra pieces (probably the juice of half a lemon is sufficient for a pint or quart box of okra). 
6. Eat and be amazed.
Of course, we'll still be offering a nice selection of our cheeses (chevre, Little Bloom, Angel Food, Red Dawn and Moonglo most likely--maybe some feta) as well as gelato. You can get scoops of gelato hand dipped from our very chic Italian dipping cabinet ($3 per scoop) and pints ($9). We'll have:
  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Sicilian Pistacchio
  • Margot's Mint
  • Honey Ginger Chevre
  • White Peach-Lemon-Orange Thyme
  • Blueberry Lemon Verbena Sorbetto
  • White Peach Sorbetto
We might have a few dozen eggs for sale as well as some of Chef Alisa's small-batch fruit preserves.  The goats are still up for visitors (even the bucks who are in full breeding scent), and you can peruse the garden and marvel at Rachel's handiwork.  The weather is supposed to be gorgeous so, COME ON OUT!