‘Cheese Please’ Society Needs Good Choices

Originally Posted: Thursday, August 8, 2013


America has a love affair with cheese. We eat it on everything every day and all of the time. We eat it at restaurants, grab it to go, eat it by the slice from packages and melt in on so many of our meals. We give cheese to our kids for snacks, our guests for hors d’oeurves and rarely think about where it comes from or who makes it in our cheese please society.


Truth is, most of the cheese in our food is processed. It’s filled with bad milk, bad fat, lacks nutrition, lacks flavor and has no respect for the farm — I say skip it.


Somewhere we lost our cheese path sourcing it from the wholesome goodness that comes from tender loving care of milking animals that roam freely and graze. Our favorite food has become compromised. So it’s time to make better cheese choices.


The artisanal craftsmanship of farmstead cheese methods and the sophistication of a cheese-maker are centuries old but in America they don’t have the same importance as our European ancestors who eat cheese as a delicacy, wrapped in beautiful packaging and sliced from wheels or molded freshly — as a meal, a food course or dessert ever mindful of where it comes from and who made it.


Farmstead simply means milk comes from the farm where it is made and Chaseholm Creamery is one of less than 10 farmstead creameries in New York state.


It’s amazing what can happen on a multi-generational dairy farm when Rory Chase decided his real journey in life was making food.


Sensing his father Barry Chase was winding down his career in agriculture Rory thought, what happens if there is no successor on the farm? “It’s gonzo!” he told me, “You see it around — a barn with the roof caved in — and the farm is lost.” He didn’t want this to happen to his family and took action.


Rory and his sister Sarah took over Chaseholm Farm with their dad and farm manager Howard Brooks to add real value with the Amazing Real Live Food Company. That’s what they have called it until the recent brand shift highlighting their farm family history and re-launching the brand as “Chaseholm Farm Creamery” where they hand craft artisanal cheese in Pine Plains on 360 acres of farmland their family has owned for a century.


Siblings Rory, Farley and Sarah’s grandfather, Dr. Kenneth Chase, was a dairy farmer and the dentist in town. His father, their great-grandfather was a local provisioner in Pine Plains who owned a butcher shop that also sold dry goods. Their local great-great-grandfather worked at Patchins Mill.


Food and farming has been in their blood since birth. “I never got to know Grand Pappi Chase,” Rory told me, but his own father worked on their dairy farm all his life raising horses and cows, then took over the operation on his 30th birthday as the first full time farmer in the family with a labor force that managed 50 to 55 milking cows — the average size of a dairy farm in the Hudson Valley region in the 1950s.


Today, there are 80 head in the herd and 30 of them are milking cows. Sarah was the chief cheese-maker after returning from college, “and was incredibly dedicated and hard working,” Rory said passionately.


Sarah worked with Rory until recently when she transitioned to the barn to manage the milking and handed the role to their current cheese-maker Delphina Madera from Philadelphia, Penn., a graduate of the culinary arts at CIA.


Sarah Chase took her baseline skills from the Hawthorne Valley School of herd management and the opportunity to step into her father’s shoes. Implementing an intensively managed rotational grazing grass based system for high yield low carbon output simply means extra healthy milk.


These Holstein cows are only ever in a paddock for 24 hours. They graze freely on grass eating 40 percent at a time, which means the grass can grow back quickly and recover nutrition, which at Chaseholm Farm is passed on to you with healthier and fresher cheese for your own family.


Sarah is on the family farm because the land and way of life are her legacy and hugely important to her. “Our relationship to an agricultural landscape and lifestyle are at risk. Selling and developing the land are my biggest fears. I produce milk from cows that spend their days in pasture because I believe that’s what is right.”


Rory said it was tough to lose Sarah in the creamery but she became the key ingredient “with heart — a tender and loving approach to the big ole animals particularly conscious of no antibiotics, no GMO in their feed and graze, graze, graze mentality.” This lends incredible flavor to their Camembert, Queso Blanco, Tomme and other alpine and chaource style cheeses.


I don’t think a dinner party is complete without the “Moonlight” Chaource chevre-style cheese they make that’s softly ripened with a bloomy rind. You can taste the goodness.


While it helps to refine the technique of cheese making with influences Rory learned at Sprout Creek Farm and Bardwell Farm with Peter Dickson, it all starts with the milk. The probiotic part is part of the cheese making and is natural in fresher, younger cheeses.


Rory was a farm boy from the start. He grew up milking cows, was a 4H member and showed Holsteins at the fair with the Eastern NY Holstein Club. “It was like camp for farm kids, the black and white show was every year at the fair and I didn’t realize at the time but it was kinda fun, we slept there in front of the cows and woke up at dawn — my favorite part was cooking for us all before the fair started — I would throw on some bacon and everyone would gather from the smell and eat …”


Rory and his older brother Farley worked on the farm every summer until both left to explore college and other pursuits. Farley opened Chase Literary Agency and Rory, after graduating from Tufts University, moved out west for other pursuits in filmmaking.


While in San Francisco, Rory ended up taking a cheese making class at UC Davis CA Polytechnic in the Dairy Science Department. It was their first farmstead cheese making course. “That was two years still before I moved back to the farm. I started experimenting at Ronnybrook creamery for two years and was thrilled when I finally got my own space and started my own business. I built the creamery in what was the grainery, where I used to raise chickens and in my youth shoveled oats for our own feed. I should have torn it down and started fresh but there was too much nostalgia in that space.”


Amazing Real Live Food Company incorporated in 2007 with a concept of probiotic food — sauerkraut, kombucha, cheese and ice cream, but had real success with the cheese and went full throttle in 2010 launching farmstead cheeses after taking additional courses in cheese making at the University of Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese with some of the best cheese makers in the business, like Paul Kinstead.


Ever expanding at Chaseholm Creamery, Kelly Collier joined the team from Newtown, Conn. She wanted a change of life and after volunteering at AmeriCorps in the city focused on urban agriculture, found her way to the far with a degree in sustainable agriculture. She told me, “I’m so excited to be on the farm after working in an office for five years!”


And if all of that isn’t enough, Chaseholm Farm is feeding the pigs too! Sawkill Farm feeds their whey to the pig posse together with the spent grains from Hillrock Estate Distillery, their other neighbor!


Coming up at Chaseholm creamery there are all kinds of surprises — small batch brewing to wash cheese and sell at farmers markets and a new flavor “Chase Red Beard“ which is hard-cider-washed cheese finished with local Core apple vodka used to dry the rind from Harvest Spirits. “It’s a small yummy stinky cheese, delicate, not sharp like most stinky varieties — so it’s kinda cool,” Rory said.


At Chaseholm, it’s easy to fall in love with this family, their farm and food so good you will honor the hard work that goes into it for your own table. So get involved. Meet your farmer. Buy local cheese from Chaseholm creamery and look and feel better by eating food you know was made responsibly for the animals, the environment and your health. FarmOn!


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