Letter from the Farm
Last Saturday, we sent 52 doelings (born last spring) on a journey to the Dominican Republic. This trip has been long in the making. It began with a phone call last July from a potential goat buyer interested in starting a goat dairy and farmstead creamery in the Dominican Republic. The phone call led to a farm visit in August. After visiting several other dairies in the US with potential milking does for sale, he decided to start his herd with our doelings. He was impressed with how we care for them and how healthy & happy they were. Prior to visiting our farm, he had sworn he wanted to start with higher producing breeds like Sanaan and Alpine. After spending time with our girls, he fell in love with the no-eared La Manchas and our cross-bred La Mancha-Nubian beauties.
We began the lengthy process of goat exportation in the fall of 2020. With the testing completed and the health papers in order, we arranged the date for pick up and transport in early February. The livestock transport company was used to moving million-dollar racehorses around the country. They showed up early Saturday morning under frigid blue skies with what I describe as a luxury trailer. It was a double decker with high windows and adjustable compartments and wide ramps to escort the goats into their temporary mobile home. Once we decided on bunk sizes and numbers of goats per stall, the drivers, Donnie and Mark (from Ocala FL) got to work to bed the stalls with clean straw and set up their water buckets. It was so clean and comfortable, I fantasized about stowing away to get a little vacation to Miami.
The doelings had emerged from their barn, curious about the monstrous vehicle parked in front of their barn and complaining about the delay in their grain feeding. Once the on-ramp was in place, we set up pallet barricades to funnel them toward the ramp. We set up their grain feeder just in front of the ramp to entice them out of their familiar environment. The more gregarious goats bolted right for the grain feeders as we let them eat and then gently ushered them into the trailer. Seeing unfamiliar human faces, they quickly made a group reverse turn back toward their barn. With the gate still open, we went back and forth several times until we could coax them in small groups up the ramp into the trailer stalls. After an hour, the last wily group was finally persuaded to board the bus for Florida. We loaded them with hay for the journey and hugged them for the last time.
As the doors swung closed and the drivers boarded the cab, we could hear the does settling down, accepting their new swanky digs. They arrived in Miami the next morning, the driver, Donnie calling me with frequent updates on their progress. Being the worrying goat mother that I am, I was a nervous wreck until he sent me pictures of them in their holding pen in Miami. He informed that they would have arrived several hours earlier, but they made several stops to check on “my babies.” At 2 am on Tuesday morning, they boarded a flight to Santo Domingo and arrived two hours later. Thankfully, everyone weathered the journey in good health, and now they await their quarantine of a week until they can finally make the final trip to their new farm home. So, the genetics of Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery will make its mark in a new tropical paradise.
Other Farm News
We are not in a tropical paradise. The farm is blanketed in snow. The goats are nestled in a thick layer of straw inside their cozy barns, snuggling to stay warm in pregnant goat piles. Their swollen bellies and voracious appetites foreshadow the flood of baby goats we await in just a few weeks. While the outside is silent and slumbering, we have been busy repairing, remodeling, rearranging and reorganizing in anticipation of the baby boom.
The creamery has not been dormant either. We have been receiving weekly shipments of jersey cow milk from Kilgus Farmstead in Fairbury to keep our patrons in cheese. We launched a new product, a rich artisan cottage cheese made with whole milk and heavy cream. We are making cow-milk versions of our bloomy rind cheeses, and we even tried our hand at a “Gournay,” a Normandy style of fresh cheese, similar in texture to our chevre. We love working with this jersey milk with its telltale yellow cream line. We’re excited to share these cheeses with our patrons too.
Farm News and in the News
Valentine’s Day Farm Open Hours
In celebration of Valentine’s Day and Just plain “Let’s get outside and defy winter” celebration, we are opening our farm store on Saturday, February 13th from 11 am to 2pm. For those who pre-ordered our VERY Special PFFC-Brite! Bakery Cheese & Accompaniments boxes, you can pick up your orders during these hours. If you didn’t order a valentines cheese box, no worries. You can order from our online store to pick up during those hours. You can also just show up, and pick out what you like, no pre-orders necessary. We have some pints of gelato for sale too (I know it’s freezing cold out there, but that usually doesn’t stop me from enjoying a bowl of gelato in front of the wood stove). We’ll even let you get a sneak peak at the pregnant ladies. Online and in-store offerings include:
Artisan Cottage Cheese
Jersey Gournay –plain or with roasted garlic & dried herbs
Snowy Woodland-a white-mold ripened bloomy similar to our Angel Food
Snow Fog-a white-mold ripened bloomy similar to our Little Bloom on the Prairie
Midnight Eclipse-ash-rind coated bloomy, like our black goat
Eclipse-bloomy adorned with dried herbs & edible flowers like our fleur de la prairie
Cow-Goat Milk Feta in whey brine or marinated in olive oil with herbs & spices
Whole Cow Milk Yogurt with a Cream Top (plain, Quarts only)
Goat Milk Gelato—Vanilla, Lemon Balm, Fresh Mint and Salted Caramel—some flavors have limited availability
Still Celebrating our Good Food Award
We’re still celebrating the awards for our Fleur de la Prairie and Pelota Roja cheeses from the Good Food Foundation. For those of you who are local to Champaign Urbana, you should tune into WCIA TV news Thursday evening or Friday morning (2-11 or 2-12) to catch the story they will be running about our big win and what it means to receive such recognition in the midst of a global pandemic. They will have link to the story on their website as well.
You can celebrate by purchasing our award winners through our online store (we’re substituting “Eclipse,” our cow-milk bloomy with dried herbs & edible flowers for “Fleur”).
We will also be launching a NEW Victory Cheese Box featuring Midwest Good Food Award Winners. The box includes our two winning cheeses, a full-flavored washed-rind cheese called “Milkweed” from Tulip Tree Creamery in Indiana, a box of Potter’s Cranberry Hazelnut Crisps (YAY! We love their crackers) and a jar of Strawberry-Balsamic & Black Pepper Jam from Grandma’s Gourmets in Minnesota (can’t wait to try this jam with the cheeses). Details and online sales begin next week—STAY TUNED!
Other opportunities to purchase our cheeses
The Illinois Department of Agriculture has launched it’s first-ever Illinois Products Online Store. We have put together a few cheese offerings on their site. Orders will be fulfilled in the Springfield Illinois area (pickup and delivery options are available), but check out their site to get details on how and when to order.
Our dairy is growing—take our quick and easy consumer survey
We have big plans for growth this year, and we want to make sure we are in tune with our customers. On Friday, morning, we’ll be sending out an email with a link to a very quick survey. PLEASE take some time this weekend to complete it. If you complete the survey, you’ll have a chance to win a special cheese & accompaniments box. Keep your eye out for this email-check your Promotions folders (if you use Gmail) or SPAM/Junk folders too.
Spring is coming! We are hopeful for hosting some events.
While the pandemic still has us concerned about crowds at the farm, we are working on ideas to host a safe version of our “babies & brunch” series this spring. Stay tuned for details in the coming month. We are also working on ways to offer tours and tastings. We are hopeful we can host a few farm dinners later in the summer and fall. We are craving our community so much!