Four brothers keeping it local in Millerton

Posted: Thursday, April 17, 2014 12:30 am
By Tessa Edick
For Columbia-Greene Media


You are what you (and they!) eat. Our food choices and sources direct from the farm break down the corporate barriers to better nourishment, health and wellness in our food system. Every day three times a day ask — what am I eating and who benefits from my food choices?


Our collective and conscious consumption drives demand — which drives supply currently held by the big business of food embedded in cheap choices and tricky labels lacking nutrition and void of any connection to seed, soil and nutrient dense options family farms offer.


Eating local and having a relationship with people who grow and craft your food is a solution to this plight and makes you understand how vital it is to allocate your food dollars fairly to family farms that work hard to feed you honestly.


Welcome to Millerton, and the 70 acres of the Four Brothers Dairy Farm practicing sustainability at its best and making dairy products from goats who are treated like royalty — and in return — provide incredibly rich milk which this family farm makes into unforgettable cheese, yogurt and butter.


The Stefanopoulos brothers — all four of them — Peter, Christo, George and Nick, are of agrarian pedigree and lovers of the land. They and their families have a strong sense of family, community and the importance of fresh local food.


In their homeland of Kertezi, Greece you eat in the rhythm of the seasons dictated by the bounty of the region with flavors that are rooted in the terroir and heritage recipes, bonding nature and cooking. It’s conscientious and responsible and their unity is a testament to family, sustainability and goodness.


These Four Brothers are famous for pizza but are invested in people. They came to the Hudson Valley region in 1970 and opened their first pizzeria in Lakeville, Conn. in 1972 with a food legacy their mother passed on to each of them. She taught them how to turn goat milk into delectable and easy to digest goat cheese, feta, Greek yogurt and ricotta cheese they now produce in their own state-of-the-art creamery run by Peter and supervised by their cheese monger, Paco on their beloved farm with vast views of the valley.


Being fed locally from people and establishments that are committed to sourcing from family farms is not only the way life should be but a tradition at Four Brothers Dairy Farm in Dutchess County where Peter Stefanopoulos is retracing his Greek roots raising grass fed organic goats and tending to the land with the leadership of a Pennsylvanian second generation farmer affectionately called “Junior.”


Junior manages this organic farmland that is home to 200 Alpine and Nubian goats that kid once a year and range in age from newborn twins (or sometimes triplets) to goats 11 years old. I have never seen such sweet approachable goats! They are milked daily and 50 percent of the yield serves to supply goat milk for the famed Coach Farm down the road.


In the distance two cows graze on the crest of a hill, a handful of sheep provide wool for a local woman (the brothers donate it to her for fiber uses) and milk for a combination sheep/goat milk cheese only reserved for the family.


There are also few Bantam roosters and laying hens — everything on the farm serves as food for the family always free from preservatives and artificial additives ensuring premium quality food for all!


There are fruit trees of many varieties: cherry, plum, apple, fig and even chestnut! The large garden is organically grown and provides vegetables, herbs, tomatoes, flowers — everything you can imagine to supply the restaurants in season from farm to your table — a rare occurrence at your local pizza chain.


Little did you know these brothers have been farming for years and making products that are coveted by New York City markets and restaurants, sold to the Culinary Institute of America, the United Nations and distributed locally to farmers markets and food shops like Adams Fairacre Farms as well as the Silmar Farm stand.


Luckily this summer you can source direct from the farm and buy Four Brothers Dairy Farm products in any of the 11 Four Brothers restaurant locations in New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts or the Boathouse in Lakeville, Conn. and Yianni’s in Chatham.


Stock up on grab and go goat dairy or enjoy in house on salads and appetizers that will keep you asking for more.


“It all starts with passion!” Peter told me, smiling. “I saw my parents doing it in Greece since I was a little kid — all of my life making feta and yogurt and I have been making everything fresh and naturally for 40 years with no preservatives — nothing artificial. So I bought the farm to make the cheese — then I started a garden and use all of it in our restaurants whenever possible.”


Peter went on to explain all of this started as a hobby but with demand became a good business and felt right.


When I visited the farm we walked the land, searched for ramps, pet the goats and with Peter’s brother Christo and Paco in the facility, we made 180 pounds of fresh feta from goat milk and ricotta from its whey.


Indeed what Peter predicted was true, “So tasty you won’t believe — you will love it!” And I am indeed in love with these Four Brothers and their dairy farm making European style cheese and wonderful Greek yogurt. I only have one request – Tzatziki please!


Super healthy goat milk (which can be prepared for pasteurized or raw milk cheese varieties depending on customer demand) is infused with cultures and rennet to activate the milk and form texture and flavor in today’s feta which takes a day to make and two months to age — unlike its French relative — a goat cheese that requires three days to make initially.


It’s hands down the best organic local feta and Greek yogurt in the country made from free-range pasture-raised goats who live happily in the clean and comfortable Gambrel style barn grazing on a “free choice” diet of organic grass, grain and hay grown on the Stefanopoulos land where they roam at leisure and yield 8 to 9 pounds of milk per goat per day.


Milking is followed by production at this farmstead creamery and the process is educational and exciting! The goat milk is pumped into the creamery from the barn directly and filtered to a cooling tank, then pasteurized immediately, held at temperature for 30 minutes and cooled rapidly to convert into our favorite premium quality dairy products.


Passion is alive and well at the Stefanopoulos family farm and a testament to stand up for your farming community and food choices. It tastes better — is better for you and reinvigorates a respect for food and farming that makes you proud to say who makes your food. Eat local and pay forward with good health. It’s worth it. FarmOn!


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