News

Welcome to Leslie's Blog.
Posted 8/29/2011 7:10pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
zinnia tomato bouquet
There are many reasons to come out to our farm tomorrow (Tuesday, August 30th) afternoon from 3 to 7PM.  First of all, the weather is expected to be gorgeous. Second of all, the goats are expecting to see you. Third of all, we have some fantastic food to sell you. 

We're having a sale on our sheep's milk ricotta tomorrow. Many of you have been asking if we make a mozzarello to make a caprese salad with all those ripe rich tomatoes and aromatic basil.  Who needs mozzarella when you can have this same wonderful salad with our firm and slightly sweet ricotta? You can buy the tomatoes and basil from Blue Moon Farm (who will be here from 3 to 6PM only), the ricotta from us and you're set. Drizzle a little aged balsamic vinegar on top for the perfect effect.
We also have lots of chevre--plain, heirloom tomato and maybe some herbs de Provence, a few bloomy rinded cheeses, some pecorino (to shave on another tomato salad you'll probably be making this week) and maybe even some Roxanne (our raw sheep milk brebis). 
Our white peaches have started to ripen (this heavenly fragrant variety called "belle of georgia") so Stewart has been busy making a white peach sorbetto. We'll also have:
  • Simply Vanilla
  • Luscious Chocolate
  • Sicilian Pistacchio
  • Blackberry Cream
  • Thai Basil-Lemon Zest
  • Honey Ginger Ricotta
  • Plum (made with a purple plum variety called "dunkelberg")
  • and... an experimental White Peach-Rose Thyme
If all goes well, we'll be serving our single servings out of our NEW Italian gelato dipping cabinet. You won't need to go to Italy anymore!!
Blue Moon Farm will have
Salad mix, Tomatoes, multi-colored Peppers, Hot peppers, Eggplant, Kale, Chard, Potatoes, and Onions.
We may also have some farm-fresh eggs and a few jars of our honey for sale as well.
Clearly, Prairie Fruits Farm will be THE place to be tomorrow afternoon. Will you be here??

Posted 8/25/2011 10:16pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
The skies finally opened up on Tuesday afternoon to let loose amost one inch of rain.  After nearly a month of drought, it was beginning to look like a dust bowl around here.  We had tilled up several of our pasture paddocks in anticipation of planting our fall season pasture plants, and just the slightest wind set the soil aloft. This rain was just enough to moisten the seed bed and get those seeds to germinate.  Of course, yesterday's 90++ degree temperatures reminded us that summer is not quite over yet. 
Today was a day of vaccination for the goats. We had the vet school come out and spray a vaccine into the nostrils of nearly ninety goats (20 kids and 60 adult does and our bucks) to protect them against the organisms that cause pneumonia.  Almost everyone was very cooperative; only two of our petite La Manchas sized up the situation as something undesirable, and they had to be chased around half the pasture to get their nasal spray. 

The tomatoes are still plentiful around here. Our chef, Alisa, has been busy in the kitchen making pickles of many kinds, jams to beat the band and her wonderfully seasoned tomato sauce. Another indication that summer is still around--canning jars cover the counter tops where ever there is open space.
This Saturday, August 27th, we're attending THREE farmers' markets: Urbana, Green City Market and Oak Park.  We've got some fantastically fresh sheep milk ricotta for you (get it while it lasts as our sheep milk supply is dwindling). We also have:
  • Fresh Chevre--plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper and heirloom tomato
  • Angel Food brie
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie
  • Ewe Bloom
  • Black Sheep--it's beautifully gooey right now
  • Krotovina
  • Moonglo
  • Roxanne
Urbana market goers can enjoy a number of gelato flavors this week:
  • Simply Vanilla
  • Luscious Chocolate
  • Hazelnut
  • Thai-Basil-Lemon Zest (a new flavor fresh out of our herb garden)
  • Blackberry Cream (made with our rich purple organic blackberries)
  • Plum (limited supply)
  • Watermelon
  • Nectarine
There may be another flavor or two showing up--depends on Stewart's ambitions and inclinations.
PLEASE DON'T FORGET TO COME OUT TO THE FARM ON TUESDAY AFTERNOONS FROM 3-7PM FOR OUR OPEN HOUSE-ON FARM SALE.  WE'RE NOT SURE IF THE RAIN KEPT PEOPLE AWAY OR WHAT THIS PAST TUESDAY, BUT WE STILL HAVE PLENTY OF CHEESE, GELATO, HONEY AND GORGEOUS VEGETABLES FROM BLUE MOON FARM. OUR PLAN IS TO CONTINUE THE SALES THROUGH SEPTEMBER, BUT IF FOLKS ARE TOO BUSY WITH SCHOOL BACK IN SESSION, WE MAY HAVE TO RECONSIDER.  LET US KNOW IF YOU WANT US TO CONTINUE (VOTE WITH YOUR PRESENCE). 

Posted 8/22/2011 2:16pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Tomorrow's on-farm sales from 3-7PM promise plenty of cheese (chevre, black sheep and Roxanne for sure, expect other surprises) and gelato. Hazelnut gelato is back in the lineup as well as Vanilla, Chocolate, Blackberry, Thai Basil (experimental), Watermelon, Cantaloupe Melon, Plum and Nectarine.  As always, we'll be offering both single servings as well as pints to take home. We'll also have some our delicate farmstead honey and maybe some goodies out of our garden.
Blue Moon Farm will be here from 3-6PM with
Salad Mix, Peppers, Eggplant, Cilantro, Parsley, Kale, Chard, Onions, Potatoes, Cucumbers, Tomatoes.

Reminder: I'll be at the Corkscrew Wine Emporium on Vine Street in Urbana from 6-8PM THIS THURSDAY, August 25th tasting four cheeses with four wines. Even though my email from last week stated (incorrectly) that tickets were $15 at the door, they are ONLY $10 at the door!! What a bargain!  You don't have to purchase tickets in advance either--just show up, and we'll have plenty of cheese and wine for you to taste.

UPDATES: New dinner dates and reservations: Many of you were confused about how to access the reservations portio of our website to select seats for the five new dinners I posted last week.  Here's a step by step of how to view the full dinner descriptions and make reservations:
1) go to our website: www.prairiefruits.com
2) go the heading "Dinners on the Farm"
3) click on the subheading "Dinner Descriptions and Make Reservations." There you will see descriptions of each of the dinners. You need to click on "more details"  for each dinner to see the full description and to purchase seats.  You need to use Paypal to pay for your seats (that means you will need to set up an account with Paypal if you don't have one set up already).

A couple of the dinners that I had posted as "SOLD OUT" were not sold out, in fact. I have reposted the available seats for those dinners. It is VERY important that you only click on "add to cart" ONLY if you are ready to checkout and pay for your seats. If you add a seat(s) to your cart and you don't check out, it confuses our e-commerce system.  Thank you for your patience and understanding.  We are thrilled that so many people want to come to our dinners, and we are trying to improve our system so that it is easy to make reservations. 
Posted 8/18/2011 10:04pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
tomatoes galore
It's the time of year that the garden reeks of abundance of the solaneous kind. I always tell folks that if I could grow only one thing it would be tomatoes.  Every winter as we pour over seed catalogues, I have to restrain myself when it comes to tomato varieties. This year, we are growing at least 20-25 varieties of heirloom tomatoes, many of which will be featured in our farm dinner aptly themed "tomatoes galore." Our gardener, Rachel, has taken them from seed to fruit with a lot of TLC (including watering!!!) to ensure their survival and productivity.  I will post the menu on the website so you can see how our guest chef, Thad Morrow, of Bacaro Restaurant in Champaign has weaved tomatoes into every course. 
For the farmers' markets, we're attending ONLY TWO this Saturday: Urbana and Bloomington. Please note that we won't be at Oak Park this Saturday, and we'll be switching to a twice a month schedule at Oak Park through the end of the season. 
We have a great assortment of cheeses for you this Saturday:
  • Plenty of fresh chevre--plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper and heirloom dried tomato
  • Sheep milk feta-goes GREAT on those luscious ripe tomatoes you'll be buying at the farmers' market
  • Angel Food--our goat milk brie
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie-our goat milk camembert--both Angel Food and Little Bloom pair very well with honey
  • Ewe Bloom--a delicate and buttery soft ripened sheep milk cheese--it's on sale this week!! 20% off!!
  • Black sheep-another soft-ripened sheep milk cheese with ash on the rind
  • Krotovina-a delicate pyramid that is composed of half goat milk, half sheep milk with the two milks separated by a layer of ash
  • Moonglo--our raw goat milk tomme--the taste will bring you back to when we had lush spring pastures (not the case right now with this drought we're in)
  • Roxanne--a raw sheep milk brebis --accentuates the buttery, grassy notes of the milk
  • Mollisol Pecorino (just a few pieces available)--excellent grating style cheese
For our Urbana customers, gelato and sorbetto will be in abundance as well. Expect:
  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Hazelnut
  • Essence of Mint
  • Blueberry
  • Mixed berry (fruitti di bosco)--raspberry, blackberry and blueberry
  • Cantaloupe Melon
  • Watermelon
  • Golden Plum
  • Very limited quantities of peach and apricot
Don't forget our Tuesday afternoon sales from 3-7PM next week and through September.  Cheese, gelato, fruit, honey, veggies from Blue Moon Farm--all the essentials for great local food eating.
Also, I wanted to let folks know about a special wine and cheese tasting that I'll be doing at the Corkscrew in Urbana on Thursday,August 25th in the evening. We'll be pairing four wines with four Prairie Fruits Farm Cheeses. You can either purchase tickets in advance directly from the Corkscrew ($10) or at the door the day of the event for $15.  To purchase tickets or get more information, visit their website at:
https://www.thecorkscrew.com
Posted 8/15/2011 4:43pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Tomorrow's on farm sales (3-7PM) will include plenty of cheese and gelato as well as honey and some peaches.  Expect vanilla, chocolate, pistacchio gelato as well as blueberry, cucumber-mint, melon, watermelon sorbetto--both pints and single servings available. Blue Moon Farm will be here from 3-5PM only with their gorgeous assortment of tomatoes, salad mix and other vegetables too numerous to mention.

So many of you have been asking about our farm dinners and waiting lists that we have decided to add five more events this fall. You'll see that there is a range of events from wine and cheese to full course meals with or without wine. We are  pleased to announce that we have obtained a liquor license so that we can offer food events with either beer or wine.  With the help of H2Vino, a Chicago-based wine distributor (with a focus on small-winery, sustainably raised grapes) we have created a wine list so that guests who will be coming to the other dinners already planned for the rest of this season can purchase bottles of wines to accompany their meal RIGHT here at the farm. We'll be posting the wine list on the website as soon as it's ready.
Posted 8/11/2011 10:08pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
chino lounging on straw bale
There's a feeling in the air these past couple of days that wasn't there just a few days ago. It's crisp, it's bright (and it's a lot cooler and drier thankfully!) and it beckons you to just slow down a little bit and breath it in.  Chino, our cat, is expert in kickin' back and enjoying a little bask in the dappled sun. With these relatively cooler temperatures he positions himself so he is partly in the sun and partly in the shade--ideally situated for maximum climate control.  There are some subtle hints that the summer is trying to transition into a changing season. The goat girls are starting to come into heat, and the buck odor-meter (intensity of buck scent signaling breeding season) is moving up the dial in response to the girls' friskiness.  The pulsation of cicadas at dusk has reached a sharp crescendo, while the firefly light show is all but gone from the early evening sky. 
On another, more sobering note, a recent article in grist (an online news magazine) asks "Is your cheese killing the planet?" (http://www.grist.org/sustainable-food/2011-08-08-is-your-cheese-killing-the-planet). They discuss recent findings from a report published by the Environmental Working group that evaluated the carbon emissions from large-scale confined dairy operations and industrial scale cheese production. Not surprisingly, the carbon footprint of such enterprises is large. The article does admit that small-scale, pasture-based dairies and farmstead cheese plants likely have a lot lower carbon footprint than their industrial counterparts, so you don't have to feel too guilty when indulging in cheese or gelato from Prairie Fruits Farm. 
This Saturday, August 12th, we're attending THREE farmers' markets: Urbana, Chicago's Green City Market and Oak Park.  We've got lots of great, environmentally-sound cheeses for you to enjoy guilt free:
  • Plenty of fresh chevre--plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper and the ever-popular heirloom tomato
  • Angel Food-limited quantiities
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie-tasting really exquisite right now
  • Ewe Bloom
  • Baby black sheep
  • Red dawn
  • Moonglo
  • Roxanne
For Urbana patrons, we're heavy on fruit-based sorbettos this weekend--we can't ignore all the great fruit we're getting locally and from Michigan (mostly Klug Farm):
  • our very own organic peach sorbetto
  • Plum
  • Apricot
  • Cucumber-mint-lime
  • Blueberry
  • Raspberry
  • As well as the traditional favorite gelati of chocolate, vanilla and hazelnut
Our Tuesday afternoon on-farm sales (3 to 7PM) are taking off like wild fire (and it might be literal if we don't get some rain here pretty soon)--we'll continue through September as long as the weather and the products hold up.  More cheese, more gelato, more Blue Moon Farm veggies, more, more, more (and of course the draw of the goats is ever present).  We'll send out an update on Monday to give you the details for next week's sales.
Posted 8/8/2011 9:17pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
This Tuesday's on farm sales from 3-7PM will be chock full of delights.
CHEESE: black sheep, ewe bloom, krotovina, a little bit of Moonglo and Roxanne as well as creamy chevre

GELATO/SORBETTO: peach, plum, blueberry, melon, apricot and cucumber mint (and a little bit of chocolate but not many)
HONEY: Our first extraction of the season--it is gorgeously clear and floral tasting
BLUE MOON FARM VEGGIES 3-5PM ONLY: tomatoes,
cherry tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes,  basil, summer squash, zucchini, eggplant, red peppers, green/purple/white peppers, pickling cucumbers, garlic, and onions. Salad mix is taking a break.
Posted 8/4/2011 9:28pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

The wonders of cyberspace allow me to write this week's newsletter from Montreal Quebec Canada. I am attending the annual American Cheese Society Conference. It's the first time it is being held in Canada, and getting all of the 1700 cheeses across the US-Canada border for the cheese competition was quite a feat.  Late last week, our cheeses were shipped to a warehouse in upstate New York and then caravanned in refrigerated trucks to their final destination in Montreal.  They will announce the winners Friday evening, so keep all of your body parts crossed for our cheeses. 
The opening session of the conference was given by a Quebec Agronomist who spoke about the meaning of "terroire" in the New World. For those of you not familiar with the concept of terroire, it embodies the link of food products, particularly wines and cheeses, to specific regions in Europe. It also implies very distinct histories and traditions of how these products must be produced--specific varietals of grapes grown on specific soil types, specific breeds of dairy animals eating very specific kinds of vegetation and their milk collected at certain times of the year to make specific kinds of cheeses.  So, the question is how do you create "terroire" in the "new world" (aka north and south america) when the history is so short in comparison to the old world and the cheese traditions are loosely based on those of immigrants from the old world. The Quebec agronomist presented a series of three examples where several regions and farm families are creating their own unique cheeses, keeping dairy farming alive and reinvigorating a breed of dairy cattle "La Vache Canadienne" whose genetics have french origins, but were modified by the early settlers in Quebec in the early 1600s.  The stories were fascinating and inspiring in their message of renewal and reinvigoration of small-scale artisanal cheese production and its impact on rural economic development. 
The stories made me think about how we can define terroire in our little neck of the woods--the prairies of central Illinois. I believe that our rich black soils are the foundation for our diverse pastures and our luscious alfalfa hay.  Does that count as terroire? Our cheese washes made from pear leaf tea and fruit jams and eaus de vie--don't they impart a connection of land to cheese so essential for terroire?  Is it legitimate for us to claim terroire in our cheeses if we feed our goats forage grown out their back barn door?  Do our Nubian-La Mancha crosses represent a feeble attempt to create dairy goat characteristics that might be better suited for the kinds of cheeses we want to produce on our land? 
And what is our little creamery's contribution to reinvigorating food traditions in a region not known for more than large-scale cash grain agriculture production?  The thing I really like about this idea of "terroire in the new world" is that you don't have to cling to specific and ancient traditions--you can tie your products to the land and the region and it is valid. It's the face to a place mindset. 
What we're bringing to the farmers' markets this Saturday
In my absence of course, we are attending three farmers' markets this Saturday, August 6th: Urbana, Bloomington and Oak Park.  I am not completely sure of the cheese lineup (as I forgot to consult with my trusted cheesemakers before leaving for Montreal), but I will take a guess here:

Fresh chevre--plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper AND heirloom tomato
Angel Food--gooey is the operative word here
Little Bloom on the Prairie--our spin on an old world tradition of camembert
Ewe Bloom-lovely delicate white rinded sheep milk deliciousness
Black Sheep-lovely ash-covered white rinded sheep milk deliciousness
Red Dawn-smoked paprika dusted goat disc--perfect for a burger
Krotovina--half sheep-half goat with the two halves separated by an ash layer
Moonglo--slightly tangy but nutty, raw goat milk tomme (this is a real terroire cheese --raw milk AND washed with tea from Moonglow pear leaves!)
Roxanne-a raw sheep milk brebis with distinct buttery and grassy notes
Urbana Market goers can enjoy cool and creamy gelato and sorbetto this Saturday as well. We should have:
Vanilla
Chocolate
Sicilian Pistachio
Apricot
Peach
Melon
Blueberry
Plum
Lastly, don't forget to come out and visit us on Tuesday afternoons from 3-7PM. We will be serving our gelato from our new italian dipping cabinet (hopefully)!! No more single servings out of pint containers!!! Of course, there will be plenty of cheese and veggies from Blue Moon Farm. Stay tuned for details next Monday.  In the meantime, enjoy the bounty that Central Illinois has to offer you!  Vive le terroire en Illinois!!

Posted 8/1/2011 7:03pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
In case the heat is beginning to fry your brain cells, I thought I would remind you all to come out to the farm tomorrow afternoon from 3-7PM.  We'll have lots of wonderful cheese, especially some nice n' gooey Angel Food, but we also have plenty of cool, refreshing gelati and sorbetti for you to enjoy and take home. Gelato/Sorbetto flavors include:
  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Sicilian Pistacchio
  • Peach
  • Melon
  • Blueberry-Lemon Verbena
  • Blueberry straight up
  • Apricot
We've also got some really tasty farm-fresh eggs for sale, and maybe a few things out of the garden.
Blue Moon Farm will be here from 3-5PM only
with tomatoes, Cherry Tomatoes, Heirloom Tomatoes, Basil, Kale, Chard, Parsley, Cilantro, Zucchini, Cucumbers, Peppers, Garlic, and Onions.
For those of you interested in UPick, we are re-evaluating whether or not we'll have enough peaches and blackberries available for UPick this year. Our crop is not as plentiful as we thought, the blackberries are very slow to ripen, AND we're using a lot more of our own fruit in the gelato.  Stay tuned; however. If we decide to offer UPick, it will probably be for one week only.
Posted 7/28/2011 8:11pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
juliette tomatoes
The tomatoes are coming in by the basket full every few days now, and that means it's drying time AND time for our heirloom dried tomato chevre.  These lovely little roma type tomatoes, called Juliette, are perfect for drying. They're packed with rich tomato flavor. We have used them in our tomato chevre for the past couple of years, and it's a marriage made in food heaven. We've been busy drying Juliettes this week so we can offer you some first of the season tomato chevre.
This Saturday, July 30th, we'll be attending three farmers' markets: Urbana, Chicago's Green City Market and Oak Park.  We have a plethora of bloomy rind cheeses (the white molds have been working overtime these past few weeks) for you along with the chevre. Here's the cheese lineup:
  • Fresh chevre--just plain and heirloom tomato this week (so we can be sure to have plenty of tomato chevre on hand--we know a lot of you have been asking and waiting patiently for this chevre to be ready)
  • Fresh sheep milk ricotta--think drizzled honey and fresh berries... YUM!!!
  • Angel Food--if you love the gooeyness, you'll want to grab up some of these cheeses
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie-what can I say?? It's really good, so you should take some home with you this Saturday
  • Ewe Bloom-both the small rounds and the triangles will be available
  • Red Dawn-the smoked paprika disc of barbeque deliciousness
  • Black Sheep--both the "adult" size as well as the "baby" version
Since we have so many wonderful bloomy rind cheeses to offer you this week, we will have limited amounts of Moonglo available at some of the markets. Roxanne and Moonglo will return in full force in August.
The heat and the fruit have inspired the gelatieri (that's gelato makers in Italian, aka: Wes and Stewart) this week. Urbana market goers can choose from:
Simly Vanilla
Lily's Luscious Chocolate (named after one of our customers and one of dark chocolate-colored goats)
Hazelnut
Margot's Fresh Mint
Honey Chevre
Blueberry Lemon Verbena Sorbetto
Peach Sorbetto (limited quantity)
Yellow Plum Sorbetto (very limited quantity-experimental)
Apricot Sorbetto

Stay tuned for details about next Tuesday's on farm sales. We'll be here with cheese and gelato from 3-7PM (and maybe some peaches!!!) and Blue Moon Farm will be here from 3-5PM with there organic vegetables. We may be starting UPICK this coming week too, but we'll let everyone know on Monday.  Also, for those of you who have been asking about dinners and reservations, we will be adding five more events for the fall. I will be posting the event descriptions and reservation spots in early August, so stay posted.  Make peace with the heat--eat some cheese and savor some gelato!