One week ago tonight, I stood at my kitchen counter, cellphone in hand, and tuned into the livestream of the American Cheese Society’s Annual Cheese Competition Awards ceremony. The national conference and competition had not been held for two years due to COVID. Moreover, for the first time in its history, the American Cheese Society (ACS) had separated the cheese judging from the conference by four months. Having nearly missed the deadline for submitting our cheeses to the competition (let’s say somehow, I never received the emails from ACS about the deadlines OR maybe I was too overwhelmed with cheese making that I missed it!!), Wes had a made an 11th hour journey to Minneapolis with our cheese entries in tow (in coolers of course). Miraculously, he was able to hand deliver them to the competition volunteers in time for them to be included in the judging. Mission accomplished, I put the competition out of my mind until last week.
The ACS cheese judging is blind, rigorous and comprehensive. There are numerous categories reflecting the diverse styles of cheeses and milks used to make those cheeses. Cheeses are judged both technically and aesthetically. Certain categories are more competitive than others, depending on the number of entries per category.
As I watched awards ceremony, I couldn’t remember the categories in which I had entered our cheeses. When I heard our farm name and “chevre frais” announced for first place for the fresh, unripened cheeses made from goats’ milk, I nearly lost my footing. Eventually, they came to the category of farmstead cheeses, aged less than 60 days, and I waited to see if we would win there too. As the third, then second place winners were announced, I was sure we hadn’t won. When they flashed Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery’s fleur de la prairie in first place, I was in shock. We had never won two gold medals before. For a small little farmstead creamery like ours, these wins are a big deal. They validate not just our skill as cheese makers, but the incredible milk that is the foundation of our cheeses. They shine a spotlight on our pasture-based goat dairying and the high animal welfare that is the cornerstone of our husbandry practices. They also affirm that our small but mighty team is capable of the highest recognition from our peers in the artisan cheese community.
Happenings this Weekend at the Farm and Beyond
Summer Weekend Wine & Cheese Flights
We have some great old favorites and some new wines in our store, and we’re excited to share them with you alongside our cheeses. So, from now through August (and maybe longer), our staff will pick a white, a rose and a red to pair with three of our cheeses each weekend. We’ll serve the wine & cheese flight with a rustic baguette bread from Publican Quality Breads in Chicago. $25/person (must be 21 or older) gets you this amazing flight with some surprises every weekend. All of our wines come from wineries and vineyards using sustainable agriculture practices; most are organic and/or biodynamic and/or regenerative. Just ask our staff for the details if you’re curious.
No need to reserve; just ask for the flight when you come to the farm store.
Book your reservations now for a very special cheese tasting event on Labor Day Weekend. We are super excited to welcome author and cheese lover Erika Kubick to the farm on Sunday, Sept. 4th from 5:30-7 pm. Join us for a transcendent “Cheese Church” service with author and cheese preacher Erika Kubick, in celebration of her book Cheese Sex Death: A Bible for the Cheese Obsessed! She’ll start off the class with a “sermon” on the basics of cheese worship before leading us through a tasting featuring 5 of our cheeses, each paired with an artisan accompaniment. After the class, you'll have the chance to shop at our farm store or pick up a copy of Erika’s book.
Tickets are $40, plus $5 for charcuterie. Beverages and gelato are available for purchase on site. Feel free to arrive early and play with the goats before class!
Farm Open Hours
This weekend (and all weekends through the end of the year) we’re open 11-5 both Saturday and Sunday. Shop our farm store and sample some of our award-winning cheeses. The weather is looking fantastic for an outing to the farm-a little dip in temperature for the weekend is especially exciting (before the next round of heat and humidity sets in).
Enjoy a cheese and charcuterie board under our pavilion with a bottle of organic and/or biodynamic wine or local microbrew. Want something cool? Try our delicious goat milk gelato! Of course, there is lots of opportunity to engage with the goats—the mommas and the babies LOVE visitors. We will have an interactive pen set up for guests to enjoy their antics up close!
The secret ingredient to our amazing cheeses and gelato is our MILK! You too can experience our milk in its purest form! Our milk super fresh (usually less than one day old) and clean. We are permitted to sell raw milk from the farm (Illinois Dept. of Public Health). Curious what it tastes like? We will have samples for you to try-just ask.
RAW MILK SPECIAL CONTINUES THROUGH THE END OF JULY! LAST WEEKEND TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THIS SPECIAL! BUY ONE (EITHER A QUART OR HALF GALLON), GET A SECOND ONE (EITHER SIZE) FOR 25% OFF!!
If you’re worried about drinking all that milk in a week or so, have no fear, you can actually freeze it (if you plan to make cheese with it, I wouldn’t recommend freezing it; otherwise, it will be great to drink or make yogurt/kefir when thawed).
If you don’t have time to peruse our farm store, but you need some milk or cheese or accompaniments, you can always order from our online store for pick up at the farm during weekend open hours. Just let us know if you’re picking up on Saturday or Sunday in the “NOTES” section (before checking out).
We’ve also got some great local products, including artisan jams, local honey, preserves and salamis. Check out the gorgeous eggs from fellow AWA (Animal Welfare Approved) certified eggs from Joyful Wren Farm. They are equally beautiful on the inside (bright orange means they are definitely eating grass) as well as the outside. I eat them every day!!
The farm is open on weekends RAIN OR SHINE! We have ample seating inside our farm store if you want to stay and enjoy a cheese & charcuterie board. Our store is AIR-CONDITIONED!
Urbana’s Market at the Square
From 7-12 each Saturday, you can stock up on great produce, meats, eggs and of course PFFC cheeses. Shop the market this Saturday and snag some berries (blueberries, blackberries) AND PEACHES!!! Melons are just started to make an appearance, which means it is the start of melon-feta salad season!!
Tomatoes, delicate cucumbers and sweetcorn are definitely on the scene, as well as summer squashes and eggplants—cheese should definitely be on your list, and you can prepare simple dishes with what’s in season alongside our cheeses, especially our chevre and feta. I’m all about grilling lots of veggies and then adorning with either chevre or feta or BOTH!! I’m also about making giant salads that are adorned with chevre or feta. How about lightly grilling a little bloom on the prairie or an angel food mini-brie?
PLEASE NOTE: OUR LOCATION AT THE MARKET HAS CHANGED FROM YEARS’ PAST. WE ARE STILL LOCATED ON THE SOUTH SIDE OF THE MARKET, BUT WE ARE NEXT TO ILLINIOIS WILLOWS (AT THE SOUTH END OF AISLE TWO).
Here's the lineup of cheeses and dairy product you can expect to find in our farm store and at the farmers’ market:
Pelota Roja!!! Our raw goat’s milk “Spanish Style” cheese!! First batches of the season made with early spring milk. The flavor is sharp and nutty, the texture is firm, crumbly yet supple—perfect for shaving or grating. You can also just slice it and eat it with a big hunk of local salami and smear of local mustard. YUM YUM YUM!! Now that it’s sweetcorn season, try grating and blending with crumbled feta, smoked paprika and salt and slather over grilled sweetcorn. You will never eat corn any other way! 2021 Good Food Award Winner
Fresh Chevre: plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper 2022 American Cheese Society 1st Place Medal!
Mixed milk feta in whey brine-salad season is upon us. Try crumbling feta over grilled buttered sweetcorn with chili powder or smoked paprika (Mexican style)! How about a feta-melon salad---the combination of salt-savory with sweet is irresistible!
Artisan Cottage Cheese: this is NOT your “grocery store” cottage cheese-rich, golden yellow and creamy-stuff some peppers and roast with melty cheese on top (like Pelota Roja!!) or make a pasta salad.
Little bloom on the prairie: Mixed milk camembert style- young this week—put this baby on burger and you’re set!
Angel Food: mixed milk mini-brie—aging nicely, and perfect for enjoying with sliced tomatoes and fresh basil! Our answer to caprese salad!
Black Goat: All goat ash-ripened bloomy rind; aging nicely2021 NY International Cheese Competition Silver Medal Winner!
Fleur de la Prairie: All goat milk bloomy with dried herbs and edible flowers-very young this week, but delicious 2021 Good Food Award Winner AND 2022 American Cheese Society First Place Winner!
Goat milk Yogurt (mostly pints sizes; quart size is limited)
Raw goat milk (half gallons or quarts)-farm store only
Not local? No problem. You can order our cheeses and gift boxes from our online store.