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Under the microscope: surviving our first third party food safety audit

Farm News

Over the past few months, we have been preparing for our cheese plant’s very first 3rd-party food safety audit. While we have been inspected routinely by our state’s Department of Public Health since our inception, and occasionally by the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA), a third-party audit is regulatory compliance on steroids.


I have always maintained our little creamery with the most stringent of cleanliness and food safety standards. I have always believed that a pristine cheese plant and staff that embrace cleaning go hand in hand with producing amazing quality cheese. Yet, we are tiny relative to our peers in the artisan and specialty cheese world, and our food safety management“ team” currently consists of me, myself and I. I have been quietly following the trends of creameries like ours preparing for an audit, knowing that the paperwork, testing and documentation required would be a sea change in our daily operations. Despite my reluctance and foot dragging over the past few years, the reality is that our bigger wholesale customers now require such an audit for us to continue to do business with them.


So, I engaged the services of an auditor, and we began to get the creamery ready a little less than two months ago. He sent me the detailed outline of all the categories for which we would be inspected, and we set to work on our game plan. We repaired the walls, doors and floors needing serious TLC, we installed better lighting, we sealed holes that didn’t need to exist, we replaced all the rusty castors, and we deep cleaned the entire plant from top to bottom. We weed wacked the perimeter of our facility and removed any debris that could potentially harbor pests. With the help of our tech savvy Sophie, I revamped our food safety plan, I updated our “good manufacturing practices” and added a mountain of check lists and worksheets so we could demonstrate to the auditor that we were or would be compliant.


The night before the audit, I finalized the paperwork and printed out a set of documents thicker than my Ph.D. dissertation (and that was over 400 pages 30 years ago!!). The auditor arrived promptly at 8 am yesterday morning from Madison Wisconsin. He toured the facility, both outside and inside, and then we settled into the arduous tasks of reviewing the documentation. After nearly five hours, he tallied up the points we received for each of the sections of the audit. We received a passing score. During the review, he remarked several times that we were doing quite well, despite this being our first audit. Of course, we have deficits for which we will have to comply, and of course we must now maintain all of the procedures and documents to remain compliant. As he rose from the table to put on his coat, he turned to me and said “I know you make safe cheese here,” a simple yet profound statement.

Farm Happenings


Don’t forget: Goaty Halloween is Happening this Sunday Oct. 30th!

Sunday October 30th, 1-4 pm.

  • Goats in Costume!

  • Guests in costume taking pictures with the goats in costume!

  • Pumpkin Decorating!

  • Hayrides (weather permitting) !

  • Spooky Sorghum Meander!

  • Hot Apple Cider (with-for adults or without alcohol -for the kids)!

  • Pumpkin and Paw Paw Gelato!

No reservations required. Parking will be in the big lot on south side of the farm. Events including the hayride and pumpkin decorating will require purchasing tickets in the farm store. We won’t be serving cheese & wine flights or cheese boards that afternoon, but we have a couple of very yummy and very fall-centric chevre & accompaniments “boats” for sale. The weather forecast is for showers in the morning, BUT, most of our events are either indoors or under cover (except the hayrides). Come in costume. This annual PFFC tradition is NOT to be missed!


Delight Flower Farm Returns to Prairie Fruits for Holiday Wreath Making

Our flower friends at Delight Flower Farm will be hosting a variety of wreath making workshops around the area in November and December. We are hosting them on Thursday, December 1st. It’s a super fun time! They bring all the materials you need to craft a unique and gorgeous wreath to take home. We provide wine, beer, cider and non-alcoholic beverages as well as cheese plates to nibble on while you build your wreath. For details and ticket purchases, check out their links: Facebook event and for purchasing Tickets.

Wine and Cheese on the Farm? Yes please!

NOTE: For this weekend, we’re only offering flights on Saturday, the 29th. We are one of the few places in Champaign-Urbana where you can get a curated wine and cheese flight. We carry some great organic and/or biodynamic wines. We try to change up the wines and the cheeses almost every weekend so you can come often to try a variety. We serve the wine & cheese flight with a rustic baguette bread from Publican Quality Breads in Chicago or with Potters Crackers. $25/person (must be 21 or older) gets you this amazing flight of three wine pours and three cheeses with some surprise accompaniments every weekend. All of our wines come from small family-owned wineries and vineyards using sustainable agriculture practices. Just ask our staff for the details if you’re curious.

Introducing our newest creation: cheese & charcuterie cones!! Basically, it’s a cheese plate for one served inside a stylish paper cone-includes cheese, salami, pickles, bread and a few little treats. I am super excited about this concept, and we can’t wait to have our patrons try these. You can enjoy a cone while you visit with the goats!! Or sit under the pavilion by the chimenea with your cone and a glass of wine or beer!

Farm Open Hours

This weekend (and all weekends through the end of the year) we’re open 11-5 both Saturday and Sunday. The weather will be very fall-like this weekend, so we’ll get a fire going in the chimenea under our pavilion. You can sit around the fire and enjoy a cheese & wine flight, a cheese in a cone or a “build your own” cheese board. Shop our farm store and sample some of our award-winning cheeses.


We also have some great beers and hard ciders in the cooler. Want something sweet and creamy? Try our delicious goat milk gelato! Of course, there are lots of opportunities to engage with the goats—the mommas and the teenagers LOVE visitors. The interactive goat "play pen" is right next to our Sorghum-Sudan Grass Cover Crop forest. We can NO LONGER feed the Sorghum-Sudan grass to the goats after a frost (even a light frost produces cyanide in the plant!!), we should still have some mulberry and maple branches for you to feed them.

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.


If you don’t have time to peruse our farm store in person, 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. New in the store, a great new selection of PFFC T-shirts.

NEW PRODUCTS ALERT:

house-made pickles with locally grown produce (red peppers, cucumbers, etc.)

locally made hot sauces from Weird Meat Boyz


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 or linger over a cup of gelato or a glass of wine. If the weather is cool, we’ll have a warming fire going in the chimenea under the pavilion.


Order a Cheese Gift Box

With the cooler fall weather, now is a great time to send a cheesy gift box to a friend or family member OR just order one for yourself if you don’t live close by. We have some unique and delicious gift box options OR you can order a variety of different cheeses a la carte. Check out the selections and order away. We ship on Tuesdays and Wednesdays every week.


Please make sure you select either Retail 1-2 ground (for shipments in the Midwest) OR Retail 2nd Day Air (for shipments to the coasts) when you’re ready to check out of the online store.


Order Your Holiday Cheese & Charcuterie Platters for Thanksgiving Entertaining!! Online pre-orders are open NOW. LIMITED OFFERINGS so don’t delay in placing your order. Your guests will be very happy!

From 7-12 each Saturday, you can stock up on great produce, meats, eggs and of course PFFC cheeses.


LAST OUTDOOR MARKET OF THE SEASON IS THIS SATURDAY, OCT. 29TH. Starting November 5th, we will make the move inside Lincoln Square Mall. The indoor CU Winter Market (run by The Land Connection) is held every Saturday from 8-12. PLEASE continue to support your farmers through the holiday season.


Here's the lineup of cheeses and dairy products you can expect to find in our farm store and at the farmers’ market this weekend:

  • Moonglo!! Our raw goat’s milk "tomme-style” cheese!! Sharp, nutty, slice it! Melt it!

  • Fresh Chevre: plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper 2022 American Cheese Society 1st Place Medal!

  • Fleur de la Prairie: all goat milk bloomy rind adorned with dried herbs and edible flowers 2021 Good Food Award Winner and 2022 American Cheese Society 1st Place Medal-LAST OF THE SEASON-VERY LIMITED

  • Little Bloom on the Prairie (mixed milk): camembert style—SUPER YOUNG THIS WEEK

  • Angel Food (mixed milk): crottin (mini-brie) style-perfectly ripe this weekend; pair with our farmstead honey-sold as a wedge or whole wheel (these large format wheels are closer to the true size of a brie style cheese. We have some beautifully ripe & gooey whole wheels that weigh about one pound.

  • Feta in Whey Brine: mixed milk is back and boy is it delicious-creamy, luscious with the perfect tang-- or warmed in the oven with roasted tomatoes and fresh thyme.

Not sure what to do with feta now that salad weather is on the wane? Here are some suggestions:

--crumble over a hearty stew or chili

--bake in the oven with good extra-virgin olive oil, kalamata olives, fresh thyme sprigs and sundried tomatoes

--put on top of your house-made pizza

--crumble over tacos or refried beans (in place of Mexican grating cheese)

  • Mixed Milk Yogurt (pints and quarts)-jersey cow milk from Kilgus Farmstead (Fairbury IL) mixed with our fall goat milk-rich, thick with a slight yogurt tang! VERY LIMITED THIS WEEK

  • House-made pumpkin butter, house-made pickles, roasted “Blue Moon Farm” shishito pepper jam—all great accompaniments for our cheeses

  • Cheese sampler pack-small portions of most of our cheeses. Add bread or crackers and you have an instant light meal or an appetizer for impromptu guests!—ONLY TWO LEFT

  • Raw goat milk (half gallons or quarts)-farm store only

Not local? No problem. We ship nationwide. You can order our cheeses and gift boxes from our online store.

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