**** Getting started in the cheese business: When people ask us how we started, Pete answers that he hit his head one too many times (he's 6'5"). But the truth of the matter is it all started when he purchased our farmstead over 20 years ago. Our farm, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was a gem waiting to fulfill its agricultural roots in the 21st century. With multiple outbuildings sitting idle, Pete began raising heifer calves and just plain fell in love with cows.
Meanwhile, I was experimenting with making cheese in the kitchen. Before we knew it, our two passions meshed. We literally built the milk and cheese parlors ourselves, remodeling existing farm buildings. The historic egg house became our creamery, the granary our farmstand. Our five cows are milked twice daily and provide the milk for our whole, raw milk cheeses. All cheeses are natural rind and hand-crafted in very small batches of less than 100 gallons. (Well, the feta doesn't have a natural rind.)
**** On the challenges and joys of cheesemaking: Marketing our cheeses is very time consuming! But visiting all of the farmers' markets in our area is really a joy. In fact, we have found a wonderful community of cheese lovers at our local Cache Valley market. Locals seem to feel a real sense of pride that our little corner of Utah has a cheese maker. We also sell at Salt Lake City and Park City farmers' markets. We also market to chefs and retail stores.
Making the connection with local chefs is a bit tough since they are so busy. It's a whole different world that we are only just beginning to appreciate. Even if a chef likes our cheeses, he or she still has to figure out how to incorporate it into the menu. Some chefs are committed to the idea of supporting local and they are our greatest supporters - i.e. Colton Soelberg at Sundance.
One of our greatest joys is meeting the many wonderful supportive Utahans who go out of their way to promote us and our product. The Utah Slow Food convivia has been wonderful and we appreciate everything they have done for us. We have developed some real friendships and appreciate finding like-minded people.
**** Styles of cheese: We focus on Gouda and Edam. Our Wasatch Mountain Gruyere was the suggestion of a friend/cheesemonger who thought our high mountain valley would lend itself to an alpine cheese. Cache Valley has a long history of dairying and cheese making. There are several large factories here that win awards for their Swiss. We are simply the latest and newest incarnation of this agricultural tradition.
**** Other Utah cheesemakers: There aren't too many other artisan cheese makers in Utah. We have personally met a goat cheese maker and two other cow's milk cheese makers. There are a couple of others in the state, but haven't met them and they are marketing to somewhat different customers. Generally speaking, we've found a very supportive network between cheese makers everywhere. We've had several from out of state visit and make cheese with us and we've done the same with others around the country.
**** Future plans: We plan to add onto our aging room this summer. Currently we can only age about 2,400 pounds of cheese. We would really like to be able to age all our cheeses longer. As far as expanding our cow numbers, we plan to be milking six cows in 2008, but probably no more than that. Our business plan (yes, sometimes we ask ourselves - what were we thinking?) is to stay small. We'll never get rich, but that's not what we're after.
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Rockhill Creamery Pete Schropp & Jennifer Hines 533 S. State St. Richmond, UT 84333 email: creamery - at - rockhillcheese - dot- com 435.258.1278
Available in Seattle at The Cheese Cellar