California’s Cheese Trail
California Bountiful is a monthly publication sent out by Farm Bureau to FB members or to people who have insurance through the FB providers. It’s a great snapshot of what is going on in California Agriculture and for the past few years they have been concentrating on the upsurge in smaller sustainable farms, unusual crops and niche industries that are building up in response to a generation of new farmers more interested in sustainability, non-commercial varieties of crops, pasture raising and smaller high quality production of value added products than their corporate farm counterparts.
So, when I opened my mail yesterday and found the magazine buried within a pile of junk I instantly knew what my night time reading was going to be. Even more exciting was the centerfold. Now, don’t get excited folks, this is not your traditional centerfold. This one was about dairy sheep and the making of cheese from sheep’s milk, something I’ve been interested in for a long time. The article spotlighted one particular farm—Bellwether Farms—from a coastal region north of San Francisco. But what was even more exciting than the article about how Bellwether came to be, the pasture grazing sheep or the tails about learning cheese making from the best cheese regions in Italy was a mention on their website about a cheese trail right here in California! This was exciting!
A quick search on Google and there it was…the Sonoma Marin Cheese Trail, and not just a website or article, but a bright, beautiful map of the area, the cheese making farms and a short blurb about each farm or shop. Over two dozen farms and shops dedicated to artisan cheeses made from quality, organic, grass eating, non-commercial milk from sheep, goats, cows, and water buffalo. Basically, if it produces milk these artists are making cheese out of it. This was cheese lover’s nirvana!
So, why all the excitement? Well—in just 30 days Brianne, sis and I will be heading to the California State Fair for a livestock competition Brianne qualified for at our 2011 county fair. We booked the trip weeks ago and as fate would have it mommy made a mistake. I thought I read that Brianne’s competition was on Saturday, when in fact it is on Sunday. As luck would have it I made our plans to leave on Thursday after work which means we have Friday and Saturday (two whole days) FREE. Can you guess where we will be? Eating our way through the best cheese making area of California would be a good guess. And not just that, for along with cheese this area is also home to the Petaluma Seed Bank, owned and operated by Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.
It will be a wonderful day full of beautiful farms and dairies, cheese making tours, shops where we can taste and buy so many wonderful handmade cheeses not available in our area. We’ll peruse the vault at the seed bank and comb through shelf after shelf of heirloom seed packets planning and dreaming of next season’s garden. We’ll find a shady tree and eat our lunch of handmade artisan cheese and yoghurt, homemade bread, fresh fruit and maybe even a little bottle of wine. What the hell…Brianne can drive.
It’s going to be a homesteading cheese lover’s paradise of activities. I CAN”T WAIT!!!
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