Cheese farms in the West04/06/2007

There's no better way to learn about cheese than by seeing it made at a farmstead cheese operation

Margo True 

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Visit one near you for a fun and enlightening day trip.

There's no better way to learn about cheese than by seeing it made, and there's no better place to see it made than a farmstead cheese operation. "Farmstead" means that the cheese is made right on the premises, using the fresh milk of the animals raised there ― so you get to see the cheese created from the grass up, so to speak. (Most cheesemakers don't keep animals. Instead, they buy their milk from dairy farms.) Farmstead cheesemaking is a long and hallowed European tradition that has had a recent resurgence, and now there are dozens of farmstead cheesemakers all over the West. An hour or so at the farm is great fun for the kids because it's part petting zoo, part science show, and part snack time (tastings are usually included, and you can buy the cheeses for home too).

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Here's a list of farmstead cheesemakers open for visits. (Farmstead cheesemakers, if your name isn't on our list and you're open to the public, let us know!)


Cranberry Ridge Farm Of her goats, Rhonda Shaul, who owns the farm with husband Matt, says, "We have a variety of breeds, just because we like to look at different colors and shapes. The Swiss breeds seem to be the hardiest here in Alaska." The farm produces goat's-milk cheddar and feta.
INFO: Tours by appointment (free; children welcome); Wasilla, AK (email for directions); (email orders).


Black Mesa Ranch In March through December, the ranch hosts an open house on the third Saturday of every month; there are special holiday open houses between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It also offers seminars and workshops (half-day to three days; from $75) on cheesemaking and goat-raising. And there's lodging (from $150 per person, including meals) on this 280-acre "off-grid" ranch, which gets most of its power from solar and wind energy. Fresh chèvre, feta, and a mozzarella-like boule are the three most popular cheeses from the milk of the farm's Nubian goats. Black Mesa also has organic gardens, a variety of interesting poultry, and heritage-breed cattle.
INFO: Store hours and tours (free; children welcome) 10-3 on open-house days; Snowflake, AZ (call for directions); 920/536-7759 (Web and phone orders).

British Columbia

Carmelis Goat Cheese Artisan Goat's-milk cheeses (both soft-ripened and aged) in 20 varieties, including brie, cheddar, and parmesan.
INFO: Tours Mon-Sat Mar-Dec, $3.50 U.S. per person, children free, book one week in advance; store open daily May 1-Oct 15; 170 Timberline Rd., Kelowna, B.C.; 250/870-3117 (Web and phone orders for Canada only).

"D" Dutchmen Dairy A variety of cow's-milk cheeses, including its well-known cheddar; also makes ice cream.
INFO: Self-guided tours daily (free; children welcome); store open daily; 1321 Maeir Rd., Sicamous, B.C.; 250/836-4304 (phone orders).

The Farm House Natural Cheeses Cheddar, gouda, and goat's-milk cheeses, as well as butter.
INFO: Group tours by appointment May 1-Oct 31 ($8.50 U.S. per person, minimum 7 people; children welcome), drop-in tours 3 p.m. Sat May 19-Sep 1 ($8.50 U.S. per person; children welcome); store open daily; 5634 McCallum Rd., Agassiz, B.C.; 604/796-8741 (phone orders for Canada only).

Gort's Gouda Cheese Farm Cow's-milk gouda, as well as yogurt and quark (a soft cream cheese with a tangy flavor).
INFO: Tours (free; children welcome) 10 a.m. Tue-Wed and Fri, other times by appointment; store open Mon-Sat; 1470 50th St. S.W., Salmon Arm, B.C.; 250/832-4274 (Web and phone orders for Canada only).

Jerseyland Organics Organic cow's-milk gouda, cheddar, and yogurt.
INFO: Tours by appointment (free; children welcome); store open daily; 2690 Almond Gardens Rd., Grand Forks, B.C.; 250/442-8112 (Web and phone orders).

Little Qualicum Cheeseworks Cow's-milk brie and other soft-ripened varieties as well as Swiss-style cheese, including raclette. The farm also has a Kritter Korner with baby goats and miniature horses, as well as a lovely pondside picnic area with spectacular views of Mt. Arrowsmith. Watch cheese curd being made Thursday afternoons and Monday through Saturday May through Sep.
INFO: Self-guided tours (free; children welcome) and guided tours (by appointment; $4.25 U.S. per person, minimum 8 people; children welcome); store open Mon-Sat Sep-Jun, daily Jul-Aug; 403 Lowry's Rd., Parksville, B.C.; 250/954-3931 (phone orders for B.C. only).

Moonstruck Organic Cheese Certified organic cow's-milk cheeses, including Blossom Blue, Beddis Blue, and an ash-ripened camembert.
INFO: Tours (free; children welcome); during store hours May-Oct, by appointment during the rest of year; store open Sun-Fri; 1306 Beddis Rd., Salt Spring Island, B.C.; 250/537-4987 (Web and phone orders for Canada only).

The Village Cheese Co. Highlights include large viewing windows, a 20-minute video on cheesemaking, cheese tasting, and live piano music. Award-winning cow's-milk cheddar, plus feta, flavored cheeses, and spreadable cheeses.
INFO: Tours by appointment (free; children welcome); store open daily; 3475 Smith Dr., Armstrong, B.C.; 250/546-8651 (Web orders).


Bubalus Bubalis A herd of approximately 260 water buffalo produces fresh mozzarella di bufala and ricotta.
INFO: Spring farm tours by appointment (free; children welcome); 7095 LaPorte Rd., Bangor, CA; 530/679-0916 (Web and phone orders).

Redwood Hill Farm Goat's-milk cheeses, including feta, chèvre, camembert-like Camellia, Bucheret (like bucheron), and California Crottin, as well as goat's-milk yogurt.
INFO: Annual spring farm tours (free; children welcome) 10 a.m.-12 p.m. Apr 21-22, May 12-13, Jun 2-3, 2007; 2064 State 116 N., Building 1, Suite 130, Sebastopol, CA; 707/823-8250 (Web and phone orders).

Rinconada Dairy Corsican-style aged sheep's-milk cheeses and Chaparral, an aged sheep-goat blend.
INFO: Farm stays from $150 per night; tours by appointment (free; children welcome); 4680 W. Pozo Rd., Santa Margarita, CA; 805/438-5667 (phone orders for whole wheels).

Winchester Cheese Company Cow's-milk gouda made according to an old Dutch recipe, plus several flavored goudas (the cumin seed is our favorite). The cheery shop carries all kinds of goodies from Holland in addition to cheese, like pungent black licorice, chewy ginger cakes, a dozen different kinds of cookies, and much more.
INFO: Call ahead to reserve a spot on the group tour, which includes a cheese tasting, or just stop by when you're in the area to visit the shop or watch cheesemaking through the windows (free; times vary but generally 9-1:30 Tue-Fri; call ahead). Group tour 10 a.m. Wed and Thu; ($125 per 25 people; children welcome); shop open 9-5 Mon-Fri and 10-4 Sat-Sun; 32605 Holland Rd., Winchester, CA; 951/926-4239 (Web and phone orders).


Haystack Mountain Goat Dairy Haystack sells a dozen different delicious goat cheeses, from soft fresh chèvres to marinated medallions to smooth, hard aged rounds. The goats are adorable and all have names.
INFO: Group guided tours include cheese tasting. You can take a self-guided tour twice a week. Group guided tours by appointment ($50 per 15 people; children welcome), self-guided tours 12-2 Tue and Sat (free; children welcome; typically no cheesemaking on Sat); cheese sales 12-2 Tue and Sat; 5239 Niwot Rd., Niwot, CO; 720/494-8714 (Web and phone orders).

James Ranch Artisan Cheese Raw Jersey cow's-milk cheeses, including a cheddar-gouda cross; cheese is only made when the cows are eating grass (mid-April through mid-November). On your visit, observe cheesemaking through a viewing window (call ahead for cheesemaking schedule) and, of course, the animals. There are terraced lawns below the cheese room and farmstand for picnicking (bring your own bread and drinks).
INFO: Farmstand open 1-4:30 Sat Nov-May, 10-4 Mon-Fri Jun-Oct; 33846 U.S. 550, Durango, CO;, or 970/385-9143 (phone and email orders for whole and half-wheels).

Roubideau Farm-to-You Joe and Corinne Coniglio and their family handcraft raw goat's-milk cheeses in the French style, including blue cheese, cabécou, camembert, chèvre, and tomme. The house specialty is a goat's-milk sage cheddar. Tastings are offered in the farm kitchen, and all the cheeses can be purchased on-site. Joe makes a terrific nitrate-free chicken-liver pâté too.
INFO: Tours 11-5 Sat May-Oct (free; children welcome; call ahead); 3249 1600 Rd. (off U.S. 50), Delta, CO; or 970/874-3305 (phone and email orders).


Kaua'i Kunana Dairy Makes goat's-milk cheeses, some flavored with tropical fruit. Also sells goat's-milk soap, lotion, and shampoo. Best time to visit is late fall and spring, when the newborn goats are frolicking.
INFO: Visiting children ages 2 and up can bottle-feed the babies (call for details). Farm tours by appointment ($5 per person, minimum 5 people; children welcome); 4552 Kapuna Rd., Kilauea, HI; 808/828-0095 (Web and phone orders).

Surfing Goat Dairy Inventively flavored chèvre, including some with black truffles and 24-karat gold leaf, as well as cheesecake, chocolate-dipped goat-cheese truffles, lilikoi quark, and goat's-milk soap.
INFO: Farm shop and tours 10-5 Mon-Sat, 10-2 Sun; call for details on casual tours ($5 per person, minimum 3 people; children welcome), "chores" tour ($10 per person; includes hands-on milking and feeding; children welcome), and grand tour ($25 per person; includes cheese tasting; children welcome); 3651 Omaopio Rd., Kula, HI; 808/878-2870 (Web and phone orders).


Ballard Family Dairy & Cheese Jersey cow's-milk cheeses, including seven kinds of fun-to-eat squeaky cheese curds plus award-winning pepper cheddar and a double-cream called Danish Pearl. Ask about bottle-feeding the calves.
INFO: Tours by appointment ($2.50 per person; children welcome); 1764 South 2100 East, Gooding, ID; or 208/934-4972 (Web and phone orders).


Fraga Farm Goat Cheese Jan and Larry Neilson run the only certified-organic goat dairy in the state, raising Nubians and Alpines. Their aged raw feta won a blue ribbon at the 2006 American Cheese Society competition.
INFO: Tours by appointment (free; children welcome); 28580 Pleasant Valley Rd., Sweet Home, OR; 541/367-3891 (phone orders).

Rivers Edge Chèvre Pat Morford and family raise Alpine goats and a few mixed East Friesian dairy sheep. Specialties include fresh-smoked chèvre wrapped in bourbon-misted smoked maple leaves and an ash-coated aged cheese with a streak of Spanish pimenton. Ask about cheesemaking workshops.
INFO: Tours by appointment (free; children welcome); 6315 Logsden Rd., Logsden, OR; 541/444-1362 (phone orders).

Tumalo Farms Owner Flavio DeCastilhos gives a thorough tour, starting with animal well-being. The French Alpine and Swiss Saanen goat milk goes into the intriguingly named Pondhopper, Classico, and Capricorns cheeses (the first two have won top honors from the American Cheese Society).
INFO: Tours by appointment (free; children welcome); 64515 Mock Rd., Bend, OR; 541/350-3718 (Web and phone orders).

Willamette Valley Cheese Jersey and Holstein cows on organic pastures, right in the middle of gorgeous wine country. Another award-winning cheesemaker, producing aged gouda, Brindisi fontina (an Italian-style aged cheese), and Perrydale (cow's milk blended with a bit of sheep's milk from a local dairy).
INFO: Tours by appointment (free; children welcome); 8105 Wallace Rd. N.W., Salem, OR; 503/399-9806 (Web and phone orders).


Rockhill Creamery "Hearty cheese from hardy cows" is the motto of this farm, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Pete Schropp and Jennifer Hines milk five big Brown Swiss cows and make edam, gruyère, gouda, and feta ― all from raw milk, all aged at least 60 days.
INFO: Tours by appointment (free; children welcome; no cheese made on Sat); farmstand open Sat 11-4 Apr-Oct, call to verify; 563 S. State St., Richmond, UT; 435/258-1278 (Web and phone orders).


Alpine Lakes Sheep Cheese Sheep's-milk cheeses such as aged Mountain Tomme available year-round; several seasonally available soft-ripened cheeses, including a blue and a camembert.
INFO: Tours by appointment (free; children welcome); Leavenworth, WA (call for directions); 509/548-5786 (Web and phone orders).

Appel Farms Cow's-milk cheddar, feta, fromage blanc, gouda, paneer, and quark. The best time to visit is Friday afternoon, when fresh cheddar curds are made.
INFO: Tours 9-6 Mon-Sat (free; children welcome; larger groups by appointment); store open Mon-Sat; 6605 Northwest Rd., Ferndale, WA; 360/312-1431.

Black Sheep Creamery The farm is known for its Black Sheep Tomme and Mopsy's Best, both aged cheeses, but it also offers feta and seasonal fresh, spreadable herb-flavored cheeses. Spring is an especially nice time to visit because that's when you'll see an adorable batch of newborn lambs.
INFO: Tours by appointment (free; children welcome); 345 Bunker Creek Rd., Chehalis, WA; 360/520-3397 (phone orders).

Spanish cheese
Mexican cheeses
Cheese and wine
Cheese whiz
Gothberg Farms Goat's-milk cheeses, including chèvre, feta, gouda, and cheddar.
INFO: Tours by appointment ($5 per person; children welcome); 15203 Sunset Rd., Bow, WA; 360/766-8915 (phone orders).

Monteillet Fromagerie Cheeses include Larzac (soft-ripened goat cheese with an ash line through the center), Cardabelle (a brie-style goat's-milk cheese), and Sauveterre (a hard cheese of sheep's milk). Plus, gelato from sheep's and goat's milk.
INFO: Farm stays from $200; tours Sat-Sun ($10, including wine and cheese tasting; children welcome; group tours by appointment); store open 12-5 Sat-Sun; 109 Ward Rd., Dayton, WA; 509/382-1917 (phone orders).

Samish Bay Cheese Certified-organic cow's-milk gouda, Mont Blanchard (a style of cheddar), Montasio (an Italian-style cheese), and Port Edison (a moist, aged sharp cheese).
INFO: Overnight stays in a working farmhouse available (from $115). Tours by appointment ($4 per person, minimum 10 people; children welcome); store open 12-3 daily; 15115 Bow Hill Rd., Bow, WA; or 360/766-6707 (Web and phone orders).


Where to go in the West for a full immersion in the joy of cheese.

Artisan Cheese Festival March 7-10, 2008; from $35 for a single event, from $245 for a weekend pass; Petaluma, CA; 707/283-2890.

Oregon Cheese Festival March 15-16, 2008; $5, including tasting; Rogue Creamery, 311 N. Front St., Central Point, OR; 541/665-1155 ext. 104.

Seattle Cheese Festival May 18-20, 2007; free admission, $10-$50 per seminar; Pike Place Market, Pike Place at Stewart St.; 206/849-7508.


Here are a few excellent choices for a good cheese read.

The All American Cheese and Wine Book (Stewart, Tabori and Chang, 2003; $38) by Laura Werlin

The Atlas of American Artisan Cheese (Chelsea Green Publishing, June 2007; $35) by Jeffrey P. Roberts

The Cheese Plate (Clarkson Potter, 2002; $33) by Max McCalman and David Gibbons

Cheese Primer (Workman, 1996; $17) by Steven Jenkins

Home Cheese Making: Recipes for 75 Delicious Cheeses (Storey Publishing, 2002; $17) by Ricki Carroll

The New American Cheese (Stewart, Tabori and Chang, 2000; $35) by Laura Werlin


Because you can never have enough great cheese information.

California Artisan Cheese Guild

Cheese by Hand

Pacific Northwest Cheese Project

More: Browse recipes that include cheese