Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Views from the field: Ilyssa Berg

In this 'Views from the field,' we hear from Ilyssa Berg of Painted Goat Farm in Otsego County. Ilyssa's been making some fantastic fresh and aged goat cheeses in recent years. A grant awarded by Pure Catskills supported the development of a new variety of aged cheese and improving the farm's processing equipment.

Let's hear more from the farmer herself...

Cheese ready to be sent up the 'elevator' to the aging room.

Painted Goat Farm is a small, farmstead cheese producer begun from the ground up about four years ago. With funding assistance from the Pure CatskillsSustainable Agriculture Development Program, we purchased and installed needed small equipment in order to create a new semi-hard aged goat cheese. This product helped us to diversify our cheese selection and to utilize our milk early in the season before the Catskill region farmers’ markets and business activity picked up.

Another view of the elevator.

Different styles of cheese have different temperature and humidity requirements during manufacturing and aging. The improvements to our aging facilities included changes to our ventilation system, the ability to monitor the temperature and humidity in the cheese make-room and caves, and installation of a freight elevator to transport the cheese to the caves below ground. We are very happy with the results from the project. Our cheese making process is improved and so has the stability of our products.

Turning wheels of cheese in the aging room.

In 2010, we sold 285 pounds of “Fighting Goat”. It is a mild, nutty, semi-hard cheese which is washed in a wonderful New York State hard cider, giving it a natural, peach-colored rind and a robust flavor. Our customers were often surprised to see and taste a hard goat’s milk cheese and promptly added it to their cheese plates. Some of our customers prefer goat’s milk cheese over others because of adverse health effects from other dairy products and so, they appreciated having more styles of cheese to eat. For others who think they don’t like goat’s milk cheeses, they were more inclined to try a hard cheese and discovered they actually like goat cheese. A hard cheese also has a longer shelf life than our fresh (think cream cheese) and soft-ripened cheeses (think camembert), which retail outlets really appreciated. But, most of all, our new product enabled us to extend our market season through the winter months when our herd was “dry”. We took the opportunity to jump into making another cheese - a waxed-rind Gouda-style cheese, which we aged over the winter. We were able to start marketing earlier this year than ever before. We have already sold out and have started filling the caves with more. We hope we will age as well as our cheeses now do.

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