by Anna Herman
Once a month since June I have driven to Laurie Jenkins and Lisa McCurdy’s lovely homestead in Springfield township, just beyond the Morris Arboretum, to pick up cheese. Laurie makes cheese and other dairy items from the milk of their several goats, along with the milks of several local cows and the occasional sheep. This “dairy CSA” provided me and my family (and 24 others) with a regular supply of artisanal fresh and aged cheeses, some yogurt, milk based soap, homemade jam, and most importantly (for my daughter Emma especially) a chance to visit regularly and hang out with some adorable goats. We saw the goats pregnant, we saw their kids, and now we enjoy the milk that comes from this cycle.
As described by Laurie on her Shady Apple Goats website “a CSA allows local farmers to develop a relationship of mutual support between themselves, their products, and the community in which they live. The CSA members pay the farmer an annual membership, which helps to cover farm production costs. In turn, members receive a regular share of the products produced at the farm.”
The Shady Apple Goats cheese CSA operates much like the sort of fruit or vegetable CSA most of you are familiar with. Because a group of us eaters agreed to pay upfront for a season’s worth of products, Laurie and Lisa could invest in milking equipment, refrigeration, presses, molds, pots, and other supplies needed to get underway. They, as producers, were assured of customers and we eaters knew we would get fresh, flavorful cheese and support Laurie’s efforts to develop her cheese-making craft.
Laurie and Lisa moved from Mt. Airy to their current home almost six years ago in search of some land, peace and quiet, and a municipality that allowed for livestock (no go in Philadelphia). They raised chickens from chicks, put in a big garden and by the spring of 2009 had welcomed their first two Nigerian Dwarf goats — Buttercup and Olive. Their small farm now houses dozens of laying hens, productive vegetable and fruit gardens, several beehives, and, depending on the season, quite a few goats.
Laurie’s passion and desire to explore the possibilities of cheese-making led her to start a dairy CSA this year.
This first year, Laurie offered members a “chevre of the month,” a second cheese like cheddar, Romano, soft aged cheeses, cream cheese, mozzarella, ricotta and a choice of cow or sheep yogurt, cultured butter, fresh cream or another garden treat such as jam, honey, pesto or tomato sauce.
In November, for example, I got a trio of herbed goat cheeses, a buttery yellow hunk of aged Manchego, a quart jar of thick creamy cow yogurt, and some dill cream cheese. December brought aged goat cheeses in olive oil and a choice of either a green peppercorn aged Pyrenees (cow), or a rubbed cocoa espresso aged Pyrenees.
CSA members can also attend Laurie’s classes on making fresh cheese, beekeeping, making and curing soap, and canning. These classes gave members a chance to meet each other and learn skills. I spent a productive morning with several other members (and goat-loving daughter Emma) making milk and honey soap with fresh lemon verbena, making me all the more appreciative of how hard Laurie works to make these products for us.
Laurie and Lisa’s next adventure (and big expense) will be to build and equip a climate controlled aging “cave” to allow proper conditions for creating even more diverse and special cheeses, and for year round offerings of their products. They may also invest in a milking machine as hand milking is labor intensive and timeconsuming.
In the coming years, the CSA arrangement will change slightly with feedback gleaned from this year’s member group and Laurie’s growing cheese-making skill. There will be more aged cheese, as well as a cheese sampler for those not wishing to commit to large quantities. There will likely be a year-round membership option. With cost of memberships ranging from $15 to $35 a month there should be a place for all cheese lovers. All members will also get farm basket items and discounts on classes. With 35 members (individual or families), Laurie will be able to procure quality milk and make interesting cheese, and she will be partnering with a group willing to support her experiments in artisanal production and urban farming. There is still space for you to join and to support this agricultural and culinary endeavor.
For more information on joining this year’s CSA at Shady Apple Goats, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website shadyapplegoats.com.