Welcome to Leslie's Blog.
Posted 11/3/2011 9:22pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.


Yes, these wild turkeys are on the march, most likely anticipating the impending shift from glorious fall days to winter.  Wes and I were fortunate to witness this turkey stroll several weeks ago at Moraine View State Park-they exuded grace and confidence while walking calmly along the main park road no less. Most of those fall leaves are gone now, especially with the steady rain we have had all day today. A Cooper's hawk took shelter from the rain in our goat barn this morning, flushing English Sparrows and Starlings into the cold and wet.  The result was an eerie silence (except for the sounds of goats munching on their morning hay and occasional snorts as they rid their nostrils of hay dust). I sometimes wish the hawk would take up more permanent residence inside the barn, as non-native sparrows and starlings are just messy rats with wings.  It was clear that neither the goats nor the chickens were bothered by his presence, and they certainly didn't miss the squaking sparrows either.

This is the time of year that we start peeling off outdoor farmers' markets. We're down to Urbana this Saturday, November 5th.  NEXT WEEK (NOVEMBER 12TH) WE WILL START THE INDOOR MARKET SEASON AT BOTH URBANA (INSIDE LINCOLN SQUARE MALL NEAR ARTMART) AND GREEN CITY MARKET (AT THE PEGGY NOTEBART NATURE MUSEUM)-STAY POSTED FOR DETAILS ON BOTH OF THESE HOLIDAY MARKETS. The weather forecast is calling for warm and sunny, so you have no excuses but to come out and support your local farmers. We have a nice repertoire of cheese and gelato for you:

  • Fresh chevre--plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper--get it while it's plentiful
  • Angel Food--while just ripe, the cheese has a definitely creaminess, now that the goats' milk butterfat content is on the rise
  • Fresh Goat Milk Ricotta--it is nice 'n sweet--perfect for a pasta dish or pairing with fresh fruit and honey
  • Moonglo-this batch of our raw goat milk tomme was made in July during the height of the heat and drought. The texture is a bit drier than our early and late lactaction batchs, but the flavor is slightly tangy and complex, reminiscent of those sizzling summer nights (seems like a very distant memory right now)
  • Roxanne--yes, we were able to squeeze in one final batch of our raw sheep milk brebis (Pyrenees style of cheese) before our sheep milk supply dried up for the season.  The cheese has a wonderful rich, buttery taste "A real crowd pleaser" (direct quote from Nat, one of our cheesemakers)

For, gelato, we have limited (but delicious) offerings in both quantity (pints and single servings) and diversity:

  • Simply Vanilla
  • Luscious Chocolate
  • Hazelnut
  • Sicilian Pistachio
  • Maple Butternut
  • Sweet Potato
As one of our good customers tell us, it is NEVER too cold for gelato. Enjoy!


REMINDER: There are few seats left for the Farm to Table dinner featuring our cheeses at Birchwood Kitchen in Chicago's Wicker Park Neighborhood.The menu is now posted on their website: and it looks AMAZING!! Come on out and join us Saturday, November 5th (7:30PM) $50 (BYOB) gets you a delicious local food meal. For reservations, call the restaurant at: 773-276-2100.

Posted 10/27/2011 4:56pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

fall leaves

Farm thoughts: It's the time of year that our ancient seasonal biological clocks send subliminal signals to slow down, seek the comfort of a couch and consume foods that keep us warm.  In the goat world, this translates to putting on thick winter coats, inhaling as much hay as we put in front of them and sleeping in large communal snuggle piles.  Cheese and gelato aren't normally considered "cold weather comfort foods," but they make great accompaniments to those cold weather dishes. How about grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup? Our chef, Alisa, recently made a first course for our fall vegetarian meal that consisted of grilled Little Bloom on the Prairie cheese sandwiches and a luscious tomato bisque.  The course evoked fond childhood memories taken up a culinary notch, if you know what I mean.

Looking for something to make with all those tomatoes you canned?  Just sauté some chopped onions and garlic in a large saucepan (you can add some chopped fresh herbs like thyme or rosemary if you like), add some stock (either vegetable or chicken stock), add the home-canned tomatoes, whip out the stick blender and puree everything right in the pot--season with salt and pepper, add some milk or heavy cream and you'll never reach for a can of Campbells again! 

Gelato, you're thinking, is harder sell for warmth and comfort; but not if it tops a warm apple or pear crisp! Pumpkin pie a la mode anyone?  I am flush with all of these food pairing ideas racing through my seasonal brain telling me to stay inside and do lots of cooking!

This Saturday, October 29th, marks the end of the outdoor market for both Chicago's Green City Market (Green Citu Market moves north to the Peggy Notebart Nature Museum starting November 5th) and the Bloomington Farmers' Market. We will be attending both markets as well as the Urbana Farmers' Market.  I will be at Green City Market to serve our Chicago customers, while Alison (one half of our cheesemakers) will attend to our Bloomington customers and Nat (the other half of our cheesemakers) and Wes will serve our Urbana customers. Cheesewise, we've got a nice lineup for you:

  • Plenty of fresh chevre--plain, herbs de Provence, cracked peppercorn
  • Angel Food-great with warm fruit compote
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie-how about a grilled cheese sandwich
  • VERY limited quantities of Moonglo-just slice it and eat it!
  • Mollisol Pecorino-shave it on a casserol or grate it over a nice french onion soup!
  • Fresh Goat Milk Ricotta-another comfort food ingredient for stuffed shells or lasagna!!

For our Urbana market goers, our gelato offerings include:

  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Hazelnut (limited quantities)
  • Pistachio
  • Honey Lavender
  • Cinnamon (limited quantities)-perfect for apple pie warm out of the oven
  • Maple Butternut (this is the PERFECT  flavor for halloween)
  • Pear Ginger sorbetto
  • Apple Cardamom sorbetto (limited quantities

Other News: If you're looking for great food evening on November 5th and you happen to be in Chicago, please consider joining us at the Birchwood Kitchen in the Wicker Park neighborhood for a Farm to Table Illinois Cheesemaker Dinner. Here's some more details:

Birchwood Kitchen is thrilled to announce it latest Farm to Table Dinner highlighting Illinois-produced artisan cheeses including the goat cheeses of Prairie Fruits Farm Champaign, IL. Guests will dine with the founders and cheesemakers of the farm while enjoying a five course dinner prepared by Birchwood's chef Jesse Williams. The menu will highlight several of Prairie Fruits Farm's cheeses including Little Bloom, Moonglo and fresh chevre as well as Marcoot Dairy's cave-aged Alpine Cheese from Greenville, IL.

Limited seats for the BYOB event are $50 and require advanced reservations. Birchwood Kitchen is an intimate, seasonally focused cafe in Chicago's Wicker Park, phone 773.276.2100.


Posted 10/26/2011 6:02pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

Due to some recent cancellations, I have 6 seats available for this Saturday's farm dinner (October 29th) with guest chef Jared Van Camp of Chicago's Old Town Social. Jared is affectionately known as "Chicago's Charcuterie King," and his planned meal is an ode to downhome southern cookin'.  The seats are $100 each.  As with most of our farm dinners, the event starts at 4PM with hors d'oeuvres and a tour of the farm. We typically sit down to the first course around 5:30PM and end around 8PM. You can bring your own wine, or let us select wines for you from our wine list (also posted on our website). Given the weather and the time of year, we will be dining inside. If you haven't had the pleasure of eating Jared's food, this is a true culinary delight. 

To purchase seats, go to our website: Then, click on the heading "Dinners on the Farm" then click on "Dinner Descriptions and Make Reservations" and scroll to the "October 29th Urban Cowboy" dinner. You will need to scroll down the description to see the menu and to purchase the seats.

Posted 10/20/2011 6:23pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
This is the time of year when we get our first serious precursor cold weather storm that folks think, "Oh, this must mean that the growing season is over and there won't be any food at the farmers' markets." I am here to tell you that this is a myth that really needs to end.  Many farmers have abundant and glorious tasting vegetables and fruits to offer you well into late fall. From our end, milk quantity is on the decline; yes, this is true. However, milk quality is on the rise, meaning lots of rich butterfat and proteins in the milk.  We still have cheese and will continue to produce cheese for you until the winter holiday season is behind us. 
After the winds and side-ways rains of yesterday, we decided to move the doelings from their outdoor area back into the barn. I have to say that this crop of doelings seems to be a lot hardier than their wimpy mothers. Despite the cold and stinging rains yesterday, they ventured out of their little warm igloos to grab mouthfuls of hay and snatch up all the blowing fallen leaves (they snack on 'em just like potato chips). They've put on nice winter coats, but the dampness and muddiness were too much for ME, so we ran them to a nice cozy dry barn.  Once there, they were so excited that they ran wind sprints from one end of their pen to the other. 
This Saturday is our LAST Oak Park Farmers' Market. We will be in Urbana as well.
We'll be running a special for our Oak Park marketgoers to encourage you to stock up on chevre (yes, you can buy lots of chevre and freeze it to have over the long cold lonely winter months): BUY 7 GET ONE FREE!!! 
So, here's what to expect at the farmers' markets:
  • plenty of fresh chevre--plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper
  • Angel Food (brie)- limited quantities
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie
  • Moonglo (limited quantities)
  • Pecorino Romano
For Urbana market goers, your fondness for gelato does not seem to be diminishing, despite the colder weather. Here's what we've got for you:
  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Hazelnut
  • Honey Lavender
  • Maple-Butternut Gelato
  • Apple-Cardamom Sorbetto
  • Butternut Sorbetto
  • Pear-Ginger Sorbetto
Remember, fall means local food abondanza, so come on out and support your local farmers.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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. 
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.