It's not really hard to say, just take it one syllable at a time. Quil-li-sas-cut. There, that's better. The name comes from a local creek and as the story goes, it is a Native American word that means 'place of scattered bushes,' but the meaning is a little slippery because no one can confirm that. At any rate, these 36 acres nestled into a hillside northwest of Spokane, Washington house a bustling microcosm of activity, with Rick and Lora Lea Misterly playing the role of farmers, cheesemakers, goat herders and more recently teachers on this thriving farm.
For over twenty years, the Misterlys have been farming and making cheese from the milk of their herd of goats. Lora Lea, a native of Leavenworth, Washington, remembers the cheese her mother made....cottage cheese and farmer's cheese and something resembling 'pot cheese,' sort of a variation on cottage cheese. When she originally set out to make cheese herself, she happened to come across a recipe for Manchego which worked well with the flavor profile of the farm's goat's milk; that cheese became the luscious Curado that she still makes today.
While they kept cows in the past, today the Misterlys focus exclusively on their herd of about 60 goats. Each milk producing female (usually around 30 or so) is milked by hand twice a day. The Misterlys have earned income from the farm in various other ways over the years, raising turkeys and sheep as well as growing a variety of produce and crops. In 2002, they started the Quillisascut Farm School for the Domestic Arts, a popular school and retreat for all manner of students, chefs and others who visit the farm for varying lengths of time, learning about farming and creating meals focused solely around farm products (click here for an in depth article about the school experience). In October of 2008, the book Chefs on the Farm: Recipes and Inspiration from the Quillisascut Farm School for the Domestic Arts by co-authors Lora Lea Misterly and Shannon Borg will be released, focusing on farm experiences and highlighting seasonal recipes.
After twenty-plus years of cheesemaking, Rick and Lora Lea represent a 'first wave' of artisan cheesemakers in the Northwest. Like others of the era, cheesemaking evolved as a way to develop and sustain life on the farm. Having established themselves over the years, the Misterlys now teach with all of the gathered wisdom they've acquired. While cheese may have originally built the farm, their commitment is more than just to their own livelihood, it's to the livelihood of others, and ultimately the longevity of the land and small scale sustainable farming generally.
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Quillisascut Cheese Co. Rick and Lora Lea Misterly 2409 Pleasant Valley Rd. Rice, WA 99167
For more information on Farm School classes and schedules click here.