[This is part of an ongoing series about the history of cheese and cheesemakers in the Pacific Northwest. Click here for previous entries on this topic.] Harlan and Esther Petersen of Canby, just outside of Portland, were among the earliest of a new wave of small cheesemakers that began emerging across the nation in the 1990s. They operated Tall Talk Dairy on an 8 ½ acre farm outside of Canby starting in the early 90s, first selling raw goat’s milk and then later branching out into cheese. Their products, sold under the brand name Willamette Valley Chevre, included feta, fromage blanc in a variety of flavors and a mild jack style cheese. They later added goat’s milk yogurt to their product lineup.
According to longtime area dairy goat farmer and cheesemaker Mary Rosenblum, who helped the Petersons develop their cheesemaking operation, marketing goat’s milk cheese at the time was a real challenge. “At the time, stores would bring in imported goat’s milk cheeses that had a really short shelf life, and no one would buy it because it would smell of ammonia. It sure didn’t make people want to buy goat cheese of any kind.” The Petersens sold their property and herd in 1997, reportedly under less than ideal circumstances, leaving area goat’s milk aficionados scrambling for fresh goat’s milk dairy products. As we know now, it was not long before goat's milk cheese began to dominate local cheese production in the Pacific Northwest.