Welcome to Leslie's Blog.
Posted 10/2/2009 8:51am by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
It's that time of year when we play "matchmaker." We pair up our bucks with groups of does based on who they are or are NOT related to, and what combinations we hope will produce doe kids with milk production and quality even better than their mothers.' It's been amazing to watch the transformation of our buck kids over seven short months from sweet little balls of fluff to mature males who know exactly what to do with the ladies. The air on the farm is filled with the smells of buck must; the does in heat wave their tales excitedly to signal their readiness; the mating ritual begins.  Five months from now, we will go into birthing mode.
With breeding season comes late lactation milk. For me, this is the best milk for cheese making.  Already, we are seeing increases in our chevre yield (more butterfat--more cheese).  The taste is rich and creamy; a perfect compliment to amorous atmosphere on the farm.
This week we will be attending three farmers' markets: Urbana, Oak Park and Green City Market. The weather guy is forecasting rain, but don't let that deter your quest for some great cheese.
We have the following:
Fresh chevre--plain, herbs de Provence and cracked black peppercorn (heirloom tomato season is over).
Angel Food
Very limited quantity of Little Bloom on the Prairie--I know you are missing this cheese, but it will be back in the repertoire over the next few weeks.
Ewe Bloom

Kaskaskia--if you're looking for a really flavorful grating cheese, check out this raw sheep milk cheese
Update on the Olympian Drive Road Extension
If you haven't had an opportunity to sign our petition at the Urbana Farmers' Market, we will still have it there for you to sign.  The road is NOT a done deal. If we can demonstrate signficant urban constituents' opposition to this road to nowhere, we may be able to convince the local politicians it is unwise to proceed. If you aren't familiar with this issue, you can read the petition on our website under "News." I have archives of all of my newsletters and it is embedded in a newsletter sent a few weeks ago.  For those of you who live in Champaign, Urbana or Champaign Co., I urge you to contact your representatives either on the City Councils or County Board to express your opposition to this project.  The more voices they hear, the more they will begin to question the faulty logic of their decision.  As always, we thank you for your support.
Posted 9/25/2009 9:44am by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
The Garden
The Prairie Fruits Farm Herb Garden in a more orderly state this summer

The time has arrived for our 100 Yard Farm Dinner
. We have been tending our vegetable garden all spring and summer and raising our guinea hens to bring you a dinner fabricated from 98% of the food grown right here on our farm. The menu has been posted on our website under "Dinners on the Farm" "Buy Dinners" then click on September 26th "The 100 Yard Dinner."  Although the weather man threatens intermittent rain (which probably means we will be dining inside the barn), we will be giving our guests a complete tour of the vegetable and herb gardens as well as regaling them with guinea fowl tales. If you are coming to the dinner, please bring a raincoat or umbrella for the tour.
Market Offerings
We will be attending three markets this weekend: Urbana, Oak Park and Green City Market. For those you expecting us in Bloomington, I am sorry to say I won't be able to be there this Saturday. I will return there on October 10th.

Here's what we have for sale this week:
RICOTTA is back and is as delicate as ever.  We stuck to our tried and true recipe and it came out really nice. For those of you waiting patiently for ricotta's return, come early to make sure you get as much as you want.
Fresh Chevre--its that time of year when the milk is shifting over to late lactation--higher butterfat. The chevre is creamy and rich.  All four types are available: plain, herbed, cracked black peppercorn and heirloom tomato.
Ewe Bloom
-very nice taste/texture
Roxanne--think butter and grass
Kaskaskia--our latest hard sheep milk cheese--farmhouse style; great substitute for parmesan.

We don't have any Little Bloom on the Prairie or Angel Food this week, but they should be making an appearance next week.
As always, we appreciate your support and patronage. As fall descends on us, we are thankful for all we have here.

Posted 9/18/2009 12:16pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Science is in my blood, so I can't help myself in trying to make either new styles of cheese or variations on the cheeses that we already make. Las week we debuted an "experimental" soft ripened goat cheese called "Prairie Drop Seed." Our customers seemed to really like that cheese, and we may consider adding it to our repertoire next year.  This week we have two more "experiments" to share with you.  The first is a hard, raw sheep milk farmhouse cheese that we have been aging for about six months. We made this cheese when we were flush with sheep milk in the spring. The texture is dry and firm, and it makes for an excellent grating or shaving cheese. The taste has hints of pineapple and vanilla as well as a slight nuttiness.  We've named this cheese "Kaskaskia," after the Kaskaskia river that has it's headwaters just south of Champaign and runs right through Arthur--very close to Plank Sheep Dairy Farm where we get our sheep milk. We've cut the large wheels into small wedges for you to try.
Kaskaskia in early stages of aging
Kaskaskia in early to mid stages of aging
The next "experiment" is an apple-wood smoked Little Bloom on the Prairie. We're calling it "Smokin' Little Bloom."  The texture is totally different than our regular camembert style Little Bloom on the Prairie--much more firm.  The applewood smoke flavor is subtle to moderate.  The cheese is excellent for slicing and melting as a gourmet grilled cheese. Go ahead and indulge.
This week we will be attending three farmers' markets: Urbana, Oak Park and Green City Market. In addition to the experimental cheeses, we will be bringing the following:
Chevre--plain, herbed, cracked pepper and heirloom dried tomato
Mouton Frais--the fresh sheep milk cheese that is a creamy cousin to our chevre
Angel Food
Ewe Bloom
Roxanne--it is very buttery and grassy tasting right now.
Moonglo--bright as the harvest moon.

For those of you awaiting our honey, we will have limited quantities at each of the markets this week. Emil, our bee keeper, tells me that June is the critical month for making honey. If the weather is cloudy or rainy, the bees won't fly. Add to that a very cloudy and rainy July and part of August, and you can see where the honey supply is going this year.  So, everyone should pray to the rain gods next year to hold off in June.  What little we have is a true work of bee art, so try to get to the markets early to get some.

Update on our petition to stop the Olympian Drive Extension road project
We received tremendous response from many of our patrons at the Urbana Farmers' Market. We will have the petition at our market stand again this Saturday if you didn't get a chance to sign it.
Thanks for your support!!
Posted 9/11/2009 10:17am by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

This week started with a holiday—Labor Day—I labored lightly in the garden harvesting tomatoes.  At last, we have enough Juliet tomatoes to dry and blend into our Chevre for the much coveted “Heirloom Tomato” Chevre.  These heirloom mini-Roma type tomatoes burst with flavor, and when dried, the rich flavor is even more concentrated. Heirloom Tomato Chevre will be available at all four of the markets that we plan to attend this weekend: Urbana, Green City Market, Oak Park and Bloomington.  Of course, we have our ‘regular’ flavors as well: plain, herbs de Provence and cracked black peppercorn.

We’re also introducing a new and experimental modestly ripened Chevre ball we’re calling “Prairie Drop Seed.” Prairie Drop Seed is a grass native to the tall grass prairies that once dominated our landscape.  It is in seed right now in our newly established prairie!! This little Chevre ball, dusted with ash and coated with a thin veneer of white and blue molds, is somewhat similar to our Dent de Leon, but younger and more moist.  It makes a great crumbling cheese—try it on a tomato salad, homemade pizza or a simple summer pasta dish with grilled veggies.  Let us know what you think.

Other cheeses making an appearance at the farmers' markets:
Angel Food (limited availability)
Krotovina (a bit young, but definitely worth eating)

For some of you, this time of year marks the Jewish New year, Rosh Hashanah. It is traditional (at least for some Jews) to eat a special, rounded Challah (the braided egg bread) embedded with raisins to ensure a sweet new year and to symbolize the continuity of the seasons and the years. Well, Stewart Pequinot of Stewart’s Artisan Breads (Mohamet IL) will be offering the rounded challah at the Urbana Farmers’ Market this Saturday and next (September 12th and 19th).  For those of you fortunate to live in the Champaign Urbana area and shop at the Urbana farmers’ market, you have probably come to know and love Stewart’s Artisan Breads. He has developed quite a following for his bagels. He actually bakes bread during the week in our commercial kitchen. I have graciously offered to be his guinea pig in testing out this recipe for a rounded raisin Challah, and I can testify that it is both beautiful and delicious.

Our beautiful slice of prairie paradise is threatened by plans to construct a road just yards to the south of our property.  Referred to as the “Olympian Drive Extension,” the cities of Urbana and Champaign as well as county government see this road as the means to future development and “progress” for the region.  They are sending a delegation to Washington DC in the next couple of weeks to solicit federal funds for this project. We believe the road project and plans for light industry development on prime farmland are ill-conceived and will destroy the unique rural character of this region forever. For those of you who live in Champaign-Urbana or in the county, we will have a petition for you to sign at our farmers’ market stand in Urbana, this Saturday, September 12th.  I am attaching the text of the petition so you can read it ahead of time.  For those of you who don’t live in Champaign County but share our concerns, we encourage you to send letters to our Congressional Representative, Tim Johnson and our state senators: Richard Durbin and Roland Burris.  Feel free to use some of the text in the petition below in crafting your letters. We thank you for any support you can provide.


The city governments of Urbana and Champaign, The Champaign County Board and the Champaign Urbana Chambers of Commerce are sending a delegation to Washington DC in two weeks to solicit federal funds to begin construction of the extension of Olympian Drive eastward from where it ends east of Market Street to connect with Highway 45 in Urbana.  This road would bisect prime farmland just north of Urbana-Champaign and destroy forever the unique agricultural community that has existed in this area since the end of the Civil War.  Moreover, the road is just the beginning of a larger long-range plan to rezone the region for light industry. 
The residents of this area are concerned that many irreplaceable community benefits will be lost by this proposed zoning and development plan, which was hatched fifteen years ago when local priorities and the national economy were very different than they are today.  While much would be lost, very little stands to be gained.

Many irreplaceable community benefits will be lost if the Olympian Drive extension slashes through this countryside:
- We threaten our incredible potential for near-community local foods production which has proven benefits for the local economy (job creation, increased tax revenues), public health, and quality of life for all residents of Champaign County;
- We threaten several designated “Centennial” farms that will be cut in two, making it more complicated to manage them and increasing the risk that farm families who have been on this land for as much as seven generations will have to stop farming;
- We lose the tranquil beauty of a “green” place minutes from town, with fields, farmsteads, streams, and forests, for bike touring and passive enjoyment by the public;
- We lose prime agricultural lands situated on some of the best prairie soils in the world;
-We bisect one of the few effective wildlife corridors in the area (Saline Branch), which deer, coyotes, mink, weasels, ducks, muskrat, and an amazing array of other native animals use as an uninterrupted pathway linking woodlots and riparian systems north of Urbana;
-We destroy Indian graves and remnants connected to the original inhabitants;
- We lose the opportunity to gain a unique reputation for sustainability and thoughtful consideration of quality of life for current inhabitants and for the entire Champaign county community.

The putative gains of the proposed Olympian Drive project are questionable:
 - Light industry tax base, based on a “build it and they will come” strategy.  We question if there are relevant and recent studies that demonstrate the economic need for developing this agricultural land into light industry, given that sufficient areas already exist for industrial development.  For example:

There are three other roads already in existence within ¼ to ½ mile of the proposed Olympian Drive extension. The current roads already meet the needs of the community and connect to Route 45.

  • No occupants or companies have been identified to occupy this corridor;
  • Unused or underutilized space exist both north and south of town;
  • The Village of Rantoul, less than 15 miles north of Urbana has substantial urban/commercial/ industrial space that hasn’t yet been developed.  If there are funds for light industry development in Champaign County, it should go to areas that are already primed for this type of development.
  • Highway 45 has been identified as a major corridor for industrial expansion, and it links Urbana and Rantoul; why not concentrate development in this area?
  • There appears to be no serious updating of proposals and long range plans developed during the mid-1990’s to determine if their assumptions about growth are still valid and appropriate to 2010 and beyond.
  • Further, we know of no comprehensive environmental impact analysis that would project the increase in traffic, pollutants, disruption of native species, destruction of historical sites, and diversion of water and other natural resources necessary for agricultural production.

If you agree that we need to find alternatives to constructing Olympian Drive through PRIME AGRICULTURAL lands with tremendous environmental and historical value and “green” economic development potential, please sign our petition below. This will be distributed to the mayors of Urbana and Champaign, their City Council members, The Champaign County Board, Champaign Co. Regional Planning Commission and other influential local government officials.  It is not too late to provide alternatives to this project if we ACT NOW!!


Posted 9/4/2009 10:31am by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

Ewe Bloom

from Prairie Fruits Farm, in Champaign, Illinois

We've hit the big time with Ewe Bloom Herbal. It is the Centerfold cheese in the latest issue of Culture Magazine, a relatively new magazine dedicated to the appreciation of cheese, artisan cheese makers and cheese enthusiasts.  You can purchase the magazine at most bookstores  or check out their website:
For those of you familiar with our cheeses, Ewe Bloom is the soft ripened sheep milk cheese we make in squares or triangles. We've put an herbal spin on this cheese by placing dried sage, parsley and lavender flowerrs from our garden on the rind as the cheese is aging.   It is the same creamy gooey Ewe Bloom with a burst of herbs and flowers on the pallet-YUM!
This week we are attending three farmers' markets: Urbana, Green City Market and Oak Park.  Given the holiday weekend, it is the perfect time to patronize your farmers' markets, buy some of those peak flavor tomatoes and basil, pick up an artisan bread and then stroll on over to our stand to purchase some cheeses to put on top of your tomato and basil sandwich.  It's a combination that is hard to beat this time of year.  The goats and sheep are entering late lactation, so their milk is being to change--more butterfat--makes for more rich cheese...
In addition to the Ewe Bloom, we will have:
  • Fresh chevre--plain, herbs de Provence and cracked black peppercorn
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie
  • Angel Food
  • a few Krotovina--half sheep, half goat with an ash layer through the center
  • Moonglo-raw goat milk tomme with a pear tea wash on the rind
  • Roxanne--our raw sheep milk brebis style cheese
I know that many of you have been waiting patiently for the end-of-the-month goat milk ricotta. I am sorry to report that we don't have any this weekend. We experimented with a new recipe that didn't work.  We will make it again for the end of September. 

Posted 8/28/2009 11:12am by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Molly Rygg, our assistant cheesemaker, vegetable garden tender, and chef extraordinaire had her sister, Sarah, visit us for one of our farm dinners this year and she took some beautiful black and white photos of the dinner and the goats that I thought I would share with you.
Dinner Table is Set
Dinner table is set

Beverage glasses with mint awaiting their liquid
Beverage glasses with chocolate mint sprigs awaiting their cool drink

Dry girls coming home from pasture
Dry does, Hershey and Little Ritchie head back to the barn from a day in the pasture.

doe kids in pasture
Doe kids in pasture

This week we are featuring our aged cheeses at the farmers' markets. We have the full repertoire: Angel Food, Little Bloom on the Prairie, Ewe Bloom, Krotovina, Roxanne and Moonglo. You can find full descriptions of these cheeses on our website.  Enjoy any of these cheeses on some rustic farmers' market bread, accompanied by local honey or fruit preserves.  Or, how about a simple pizza with shaved Roxanne or Moonglo, local cherry tomatoes and chopped fresh basil!! Of course, we have fresh chevre and some of our mouton frais, the fresh sheep milk cheese that tastes like mascarpone.  We are attending four markets this weekend: Bloomington, Urbana, Green City Market and Oak Park.  We look forward to seeing you there.
Posted 8/21/2009 4:50pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

Sheep at Plank Farm
This week we have some sad news. Leroy Plank, our Amish sheep dairy farmer in Arthur from whom we buy the wonderful sheep milk to make our sheep milk cheeses, passed away last week from cancer at the very too young age of 35.  He leaves behind his kind and strong wife, Rhoda, and their young children.  His wife and brother are committed to maintaining the sheep dairy through the end of this season, and hopefully beyond.  Leroy was a very special person. He and his brother-in-law, Leander Stutzman, had the foresight and courage to buy some dairy sheep in 2007, approach us about buying the milk if they put in a licenced dairy and then they went ahead and did it.  They are the first licensed sheep dairy in the state of Illinois!! Three years ago, when we attended a meeting in Arthur to discuss the possibilities of farmers acquiring goats and sheep for milking, no one in the Amish community there had even heard of milking sheep.  It was Leroy and Leander's vision and determination that made it happen (and our "craziness" to take them on). Leroy installed a beautiful little milking parlor on his farm. His sheep are very well tended with ample lush green pastures for them to graze.  We will miss him.

This week we are attending three farmers' markets: Green City Market in Chicago, Oak Park and Urbana.  We are bringing an assortment of cheeses including:
Fresh Chevre--plain, herbed and cracked pepper
Angel Food (limited quantity)
Little Bloom on the Prairie (limited quantity)
Ewe Bloom

The menu for the farm dinner on Saturday August 22nd  "Local Game" is posted on the website for those of you who will be coming. The weather promises to be fall-like--in the mid '70's and clear.  Should be a fantastic evening. 

Posted 8/14/2009 9:19am by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Just another summer sunset at Prairie Fruits Farm
Sunset over Prairie Fruits Farm

There is not much new to recount this week from the farm. Our Fiesta Mexicana dinner was a huge hit--the flavors of the turkey mole and pork pipian were out of this world. One our guests remarked "it was the best mexican food I have ever had."  On to "Local Game" for the 22nd of August. The menu for that dinner should be up on the website this weekend. Perhaps our biggest news is the arrival of our new Nubian buckling. He is gorgeous (reddish color with white spots) and sweet--traits totally compatible with the rest of the herd at Prairie Fruits Farm.

Our blackberries continue to put out, so we may have some at select farmers' markets this weekend. We are attending four farmers' markets this Saturday: Urbana, Bloomington, Green City Market and Oak Park.
Cheesewise, we're bringing the following cheeses;
Fresh chevre--plain, herbs de Provence and cracked black peppercorn--put some on heirloom tomato and basil salad drizzled with some balsamic vinegar and olive oil
Mouton frais--our fresh sheep milk cheese; tastes like slightly tangy mascarpone--great blended with honey and served with fresh fruit or a fruit tart
Angel Food-very limited supply
Little Bloom on the Prairie--also, limited supply
Ewe Bloom--our soft ripened sheep milk cheese
Krotovina--our pyramid with a split personality--half sheep and half goat separated by a vegetable ash layer
Moonglo--our raw goat milk tomme, washed with a tea made from the leaves of our Moonglo pear.

All of the aged cheeses pair extremely well with the fruits of the season--peaches, nectarines and pears. 
As always, we thank you for your patronage. Savor the full flavors of this wonderful summer season.

Posted 8/6/2009 7:47pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Moonglo Pear
Moonglo Pears Hanging Lusciously from the Tree

Angelica and Palmera with Pear Harvest
Angelica and Palmera Show off some of their Pear Harvest

Pears, pears, regally delicious pears. 2009 is the year of the pear at Prairie Fruits Farm, because it is one of the few fruits we have to offer for sale this year. We have a very nice crop of Harvest Queen (a Bartlete variety) and maybe a few Moonglo that we will be bringing to the markets this coming Saturday.  We may also have some blackberries for sale if we don’t use them all for the farm dinner this Saturday.

We will be doing three markets this coming Saturday, August 8th: Green City Market, Oak Park and Urbana.  Cesar, our head “cheese-whiz” at Green City is away this weekend (attending the American Cheese Society’s Annual Conference in Austin, Texas), so we please welcome Ava Friedman to the Prairie Fruits Farm farmers’ market team on Saturday.  It is her first farmers’ market, so be nice to her. 

We are bringing a somewhat tailored assortment of cheeses this Saturday as we wait for several to age:

Fresh Chevre—plentiful, creamy and delicious with those fresh tomatoes and basil you might be buying.
Angel Food
Little Bloom on the Prairie
Moonglo—great with some of those pears we will be selling. 

Ewe Bloom and Roxanne likely will be back in the line-up next weekend.

Farm Dinners
The menu for the “Fiesta Mexicana” dinner is on the website now. If you’re coming, you might consider bringing your favorite beer or tequila to enjoy with this meal.  It is expected to be hot, but it IS august after all—perfect weather for some “comida piquante.” Dress accordingly as we will be dining outdoors.
The menu for the September 12th “Illinois Fish Tale” is also on the website to tempt you into signing up for that dinner. There are only a few seats left. 

Posted 8/3/2009 10:10am by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
News Flash:
Due to a last minute cancellation, we have TWO seats available for the Fiesta Mexicana dinner on the farm this coming Saturday.  The cost is $70 per person and of course it is BYOB (feel free to bring the tequila or mexican beer of your choice as most folks don't typically drink wine with Mexican food). 
The menu will be posted on the website later today, but I can tell you that we have two native Mexicans helping to prepare several dishes from their respective home regions of Mexico--tamales from Michoacan and Turkey Mole from Puebla.  Other delectables include enchiladas con huitlacoche (a mushroom that grows on corn kernels) and chiles en nogada (prepared with fruits and cheese--typical of Puebla). 

The seats are now posted on our website under "Dinners on the Farm" then "Buy Dinners" then click on August 8th "Fiesta Mexicana."
You will need to reserve using Google checkout.  Obviously, this is first come first served, so when they are gone, they will disappear from the website.
If you've been trying to get a reservation for one of our dinners, now is your chance.