Farm News- A dose of brutal honesty
On the eve of the first farmers’ market of the season, all is NOT normal. The degree of restrictions that farmers and market shoppers will experience highlight the surreal times of the pandemic. We will all be wearing masks. We will all be maintaining the accepted six foot safe “social distance” between farmers and customers. Customers will be let into the market in small groups and follow a one-way flow from vendor to vendor. We will not touch our customers’ money and we will hand them products in a milk crate.
Hugs and warm greetings for customers we haven’t seen all winter-forbidden. Shoppers crowding over the freshest greens and succulent stalks of rhubarb-also forbidden. Customers hand picking their produce or tasting our fresh chevre-not happening. While the measures to keep both farmers and patrons safe from illness seem draconian, we embrace these new rules of engagement because we have no choice. We want our customers to access our beautiful local foods, we want to provide some semblance of the ambiance of a spring farmers’ market.
Small scale farmers, especially farmstead dairies like ours, are walking the tightrope of survival. Spring is normally a challenging season of change for us. We go from slumbering pregnant goats and dormant cheese vats, to bursts of births and gushes of milk and exponentially rising volumes of milk transforming into cheese. The normal end of the pipeline for our cheeses opens wide to receive what we produce-restaurants, retail grocery stores and specialty food shops and individual customers flocking to our farm in droves to marvel in the mayhem of baby goats. Seemingly overnight, the end of the pipeline closed off in mid-March.
We sprung into action to create alternative outlets for our cheeses. Our online retail store was born. We called as many retail grocery stores as we possibly could to see who might buy our fresh chevre. We started to freeze lots and lots of chevre, stockpiling for better times. While the response to these efforts has been encouraging, it is not enough.
It turns out we are not alone. Across the county, the same story is emerging: the fabric of American artisan cheese making is fraying under the strain of the pandemic. We have not been immune to the cascade of consequences beset by the closure of restaurants and food service businesses. Some dairies have resorted to dumping their milk; some cheese makers are making cheeses to donate to food banks, so that their dairy farmers have outlets for their milk. A recent article in Wine Spectator highlights the plight of my fellow cheese makers: https://www.winespectator.com/articles/america-s-artisan-cheesemakers-are-in-trouble.
It is NOT normal for me to recount such dire news. Before the pandemic, we were poised for growth. Indeed, we were in the process of expanding our operation to meet the growing demand for our goat cheese. We were in the process of purchasing our neighbor’s farm so that we could build a brand-new model goat dairy based on the principles of high welfare standards and silvopastoral grazing practices. We still have these dreams; we still have hope and plans for the future. But we need to get through this challenging time. We feel an obligation to let our customers know how they can help us survive.
We need our farm supporters to spread the word about the scarcely publicized cheese industry crisis and encourage friends and family to support small farmstead dairies like ours. The Victory Cheese movement has been created (by cheese organizations like ACS, Oldways Cheese Coalition and Culture Magazine to name a few) to shine a light on the issue facing Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery, and our fellow cheese makers. Here are a few things you can do:
Spread the word on social media and in discussions with the people you know and encourage them to buy from Prairie Fruits and other smaller makers, who have been hit the hardest. We would be most grateful for the boost. When posting, please consider using the hashtags #prairiefruitsfarm and #victorycheese for maximum impact. You are our best advocates!
Buy our cheese in your local stores or encourage your local stores to carry our cheese. Help us tell our story! If you have leads for us to follow up with, email us at email@example.com
Purchase online for curbside pick-up at the farm or for ground shipment within this Midwest region. Send a gift to friends or family like our Stay-At-Home Survival Kit! Try our new products too, including our soft ripened cheeses that are just coming to market.
Support the restaurants and retailers that are open and already support us. Check out the list of current customers who support us on our website.
Thank you for believing in us and for your strong support to this point. Please know that we are optimistic, despite the current challenges. We see victory on the horizon, but we know that it may be delayed for a while. We are fortunate to have such a strong base of “farm fans,” and we appreciate all that you do to sustain us.
On to the goodness of cheese!
Urbana’s Market at the Square Opens Tomorrow! May is American Cheese Month! Let’s Celebrate
The market must go on! Not only that, May is American Cheese Month (courtesy of The American Cheese Society). We will be there bright & early tomorrow morning to greet you at a distance. To find out all the details of how the market will operate with restrictions, please review their guidelines on the “Market at the Square” website. We will be taking your orders at one section of our stand and fulfilling them in another. We will have a Square card reader set up for you to swipe your card for payment. If you bring cash, we cannot give you change. Despite these restrictions, we are VERY excited for the start of the market season. We’ve got a fantastic line-up of cheeses to offer you.
Fresh Chevre $8/each
--herbs de Provence
--cracked black peppercorn
Special Seasonal Chevre: Fresh Chive & Lemon Zest $9/each
Little Bloom on the Prairie—our goat milk camembert style cheese-ripening nicely $11/each
Black Goat—ash-rinded bloomy rind, young & tart with a hint of yeasty bread dough flavor $10/each
Fleur du Prairie-bloomy rind cousin to black goat adorned with dried herbs and edible flowers $11/each
Goat Milk Feta—aged in whey brine, tangy with a creamy-crumbly texture $7 each
Pelota Roja—raw milk, Manchego-style aged goat cheese with guajillo chile-olive oil rub on the rind—special cheese we make for Rick Bayless’ restaurants $7/wedge (limited availability)
If you don’t want to come to the market, no worries. You can order on line by 10 AM Saturday for Farm Pick-Up between 1-4 pm.
Planning for Mother’s Day
You can still celebrate the mothers in your life, even while social distancing. We are here to help you. We’ve got some FANTASTIC gift offerings just added to our online farm store, including a “Dote on Mom” cheese & accompaniments basket extravaganza, a “Perfect Bite for Mom” gift package of bloomies, honey and bread and a “Make Mom Some Cinnamon Buns” package that features a recipe for cinnamon buns using Janie’s Mill flour, our chevre (for the frosting) and Voss orchard pecans! Get your orders in NO LATER than Tuesday, May 5th, and your gifts will arrive in time for Mother’s Day.
We’re also planning to showcase Chef Alicia Hinze (Buttered Tin) making her famous cinnamon buns using these local ingredients, as well as some special virtual events to bring our farm and adorable baby goats to your own Mother’s Day celebrations. Stay tuned for details.