Those of us who frequent Oregon farmer's markets are VERY familiar with the Alsea Acre farmstand, enticing us as it does with fresh goat cheeses and the eye catching chevre packed in olive oil with basil, red pepper and a variety of other good things…I’m tempted every time I walk by and have sampled Alsea Acre’s product more times than I can count. The story behind Alsea Acre mirrors that of many small artisan cheesemakers – alienated by the rat race or unfulfilling jobs, many have been inspired to find something they could do that mattered to them. Nancy Chandler, the woman behind Alsea Acre, is no different. Nancy is a former marketing manger turned cheesemaker who was initially inspired a decade ago by her son’s 4-H project (goat raising) and has turned the experience into a full time business from her farm in Alsea, Oregon, (about halfway between Corvallis, Oregon and the Oregon Coast, nestled in the Oregon Coast Mountain Range).
Turning the dream into reality, though, has meant a lot of hard work. These days, Chandler shepherds a herd of about 60 goats, with 30+ milking at any given time and “lots of kids running around immediately after kidding in the spring.” Making cheese is by necessity a full time, weekends and holidays endeavor when goats have to be milked, milk must be processed and cheese made.
Alsea Acre produces, on average, several hundred pounds of cheese in a week's time, with most of the cheese being sold at farmer’s markets in Portland as well as in Eugene and Corvallis (see here for details on the farmer’s markets where you can find Alsea Acre cheeses). Alsea Acre cheeses are also available retail at Richey’s Market in Corvallis, Oregon and Oceana Coop in Newport, Oregon...but otherwise you have to seek out Alsea Acre’s cheese. Nancy says that suits her just fine, that “selling directly to consumers assures freshness of the product and lets us interact with our customers in a more meaningful way.” You can also order Alsea Acre products online here, for year round enjoyment. Alsea Acre makes a spreadable fromage blanc that's married with a variety of flavorings (sun dried tomato basil with garlic, garlic chive and roasted garlic tapenade, to name a few) as well as the aforementioned “Party in a Jar,” as her chevre in olive oil has been affectionately named by devotees.
I asked Nancy if she had any plans to explore making aged goat cheeses, but she said that sticking with fresher products makes the most economic and practical sense, allowing her to straddle the fine line between running a business and avoiding burnout. I can't say I blame her; it's this kind of focused practicality and direct people-to-people marketing that has made Alsea Acre a success. Instead, her most recent expansion of the business takes her into a slightly different (and fun) direction, into goat milk soap making. Other folks producing artisan cheese (such as Grace Harbor Farms in Blaine, Washington) are also exploring alternative merchandising opportunities like this, diversifying their product line and attracting an even wider variety of customers who might not otherwise have been exposed to the world of artisan cheeses.
Seattle blogger Seattle Bon Vivant calls Alsea Acre fromage blanc "the best fromage blanc chevre I've had this year." A few years ago, Portland's Willamette Week also raved about Alsea Acre cheeses here. This kind of ongoing praise for simple, fresh goat cheese distinguishes Alsea Acre from the many goat cheese producers springing up throughout the Northwest. Personally, I can't wait for spring and the return of my local farmer's market - and the return of luscious Alsea Acre goat cheeses.
Alsea Acre Goat Cheese Alsea, OR 97324 888-316-4628