I want to start this month's column with a big thank you to everyone who attended the recent "Food From the Farm" event at the Plattsburgh City Gym — both the farmers/producers and the community.
Chef David Allen of Longitude Catering created a local food feast for the folks who were able to secure tickets to the dinner.
The farmers-market portion of the evening was a big hit; more than 300 people turned out to sign up for Community Supported Agriculture programs, purchase late winter vegetables, early spring greens, meats, cheese, apples, honey and wine. The bounty was incredible. We hope you're already looking forward to next year's event.
The delicious edibles at "Food From the Farm" got me thinking about our local cheese options. There are different "levels of local" to choose from. We have artisanal farmstead types, cheeses made by larger companies with milk collected from many of our local dairy farms and a famous cream cheese churned out right here in the Adirondacks.
In the first category, Essex County boasts two licensed cheese makers.
Clover Mead Farm in Keeseville has been producing distinctive cow's milk cheese for the past 11 years with certified organic milk. A cheese cave built by Sam Hendren, the farm owner and cheese maker, ages the wheels at just the right temperature and humidity for his delicious hard cheeses, such as cheddars, Champlain Valley Couronne and more. He also produces mozzarella, farmers' and other fresh cheeses. He has an on-farm shop, or you can find him at area farmers markets.
In AuSable Forks, David Brunner and Rhonda Butler have spent more than 25 years renovating Asgaard farm, previously owned by artist Rockwell Kent, to accommodate a dairy — in this case, goat milk. Their herd of dairy goats produces milk for their farmstead products, including delectable cheeses, caramels and soaps. A farmstead cheese is made from milk produced right on the farm. Asgaard's selection includes award-winning cheeses such as feta, "bloomy rind" soft-ripened cheeses, chevre and an AuSable Valley tomme, a mild, hard cheese. These can also be found at their farm store and farmers markets.
For those of you on the western edge of Franklin County, there's Meier's Artisan Cheese. Dan Meier also makes his own types of farmstead cheeses that reflect the character of his farm and region. He has named St. Regis, Snye and Mt. Titus after local landmarks. He also makes whole-milk cheese curds.
These cheese makers trained for years at their craft, often traveling overseas to study with the masters. They are "artisanal" cheese makers, creating their products in small batches that reflect the region and their own personal creativity. It's an expensive endeavor to create a licensed cheese-making facility on a farm, but we are lucky that some of our local farmers have taken the plunge.
We also have a major commercial cheese producer here in Chateaugay. McCadam Cheese is a member of the Agri-Mark dairy-farmer cooperative, which buys milk from about 1,400 farm families in the Northeast, including most of our dairy farms in the Adirondack region. That means when you purchase McCadam cheese, you are supporting your local dairy farms.
Finally, I have to give a nod to Philadelphia brand cream cheese. Owned by Kraft, there is a "Philly" cream-cheese plant in Lowville, N.Y., in Lewis County.
I encourage you to try all the cheese options we have in the Adirondacks. Delicious and local. Adirondack Harvest is a regional organization dedicated to connecting our local farmers with consumers and can help you in your quest for local foods. Visit www.adirondackharvest.com for more information.
Laurie Davis is an educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension in Essex County and is the coordinator for Adirondack Harvest. Reach her at 962-4810, Ext. 404, or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.