Prairie Fruits Farm

Leslie Cooperband & Wes Jerrel
Champaign, IL
Goat Cheese
Organically Grown
http://www.prairiefruits.com/

Last May, we spoke with Leslie Cooperband about how she and her husband Wes Jerrel use their organic land for growing fruit and making delicious goat cheese at Prairie Fruits Farm. This month we spoke with Wes about how their farm has changed over the last year and their outlook for the future.
 
The Farm
Prairie Fruits Farm started with seven acres and this year they expanded into another 15 acres, thanks to a generous neighboring farmer. They will use the extra acreage to create a full-scale rotational pasture for their very cute dairy goats. Wes is especially excited about the creek on the new property, where he can plant some cottonwoods for the goats to gnaw on. Wes and Leslie make their own cheeses in a building they call the Milk House. Back in 2004, they established an orchard on the farm. Trees take three years to establish themselves before they start fruiting, but last year was disappointing because of the early heat and cold snap in the early spring. This year, Wes expects a nice harvest of fruits and berries, like Apples, Cherries, Apricots, Pears, Peaches, Strawberries, Raspberries, Blackberries, and Gooseberries. Both Wes and Leslie are educators at the core and are both professors at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana. They like using the farm as a model for farmers who would like to change farmland from cash grain agriculture to diversified, sustainable farmland.

Farm Practices
The land at Prairie Fruits Farm is certified organic including the grazing land, the orchard, and the small vegetable garden they use to grow herbs and vegetables for their cheeses. Before Wes and Leslie bought the land it was conventional corn and soybean fields. Wes says, they had little trouble bringing it up to organic standards. Within two to three years of growing alfalfa fields, the weeds were finally overpowered by the alfalfa grasses. In the future, Wes has toyed with the idea of having sheep, cows, and goats to keep check on the weeds. Each animal prefers eating certain weeds and all three animals together can eliminate almost all of the aggressive weeds. During the season, goats graze on grass-legume pastures and in the off-season they are fed locally grown alfalfa hay and grain during milking. Goats are rotated through pasture paddocks to manage intentional parasites and generally improve the health and well-being of the herd. Rotational grazing also allows the pasture to recover, so that they graze the same area every three to four weeks.

Typical Farm Day
The farm day starts and ends at 6 am and 6 pm with the feeding and milking of the goats. Babies are fed with bottles. Wes and Leslie have perfected their milking system over the years and they can now milk four rounds of 14 goats in an hour, for a total of 56 goats! Cheese is made every other day, when the milk is freshest. In the Milk House, a separate place for cheese making, the milk is heated and pasteurized and in 15-17 hours, the milk will coagulate. The cheese making process for fresh cheeses includes a 2-4 day process of salting, turning, and wrapping the cheeses. Making Aged Cheeses is a longer process. The goats breed in the Fall and have their kids the next spring, so milking goes on for 9 months from around March through December,. When they are not taking care of the goats, they are pruning branches, looking for pests, and harvesting in their orchards. Wes likes to keep active on the Farm. He sees his father, a farmer as well, as the ultimate example, still active and healthy at 83 years old.

Wes's Best of Farming.
    - The Milking Routine: Taking care of the does, their health and how they are behaving.
    - Picking the fruit- so gratifying, being active
                                            
Last Updated June 2008

3 Item(s)

  • Cheese Chevre Cracked Pepper

    6 oz. spreadable, mild flavor. Great on crackers, omelettes or salads. Local fresh pasteurized farmstead goat cheese, made with veal rennet, from Prairie Fruits Farm, Urbana, IL.

    Cheese Chevre Cracked Pepper

    $7.49
  • Cheese Chevre Goat 6 oz.

    The does are freshening, a welcome sign of spring and cheese production begins again! Spreadable, mild flavor. Great on crackers, salads, omelettes, with fruit or as a vegetable dip. Local fresh pasteurized farmstead goat cheese, made with veal rennet, from Prairie Fruits Farm, Urbana, IL.

    Cheese Chevre Goat 6 oz.

    $7.49
  • Cheese Chevre Herb de Provence

    6 oz. spreadable, mild flavor. Great on crackers, omelettes or salads. Local fresh pasteurized farmstead goat cheese, made with veal rennet, from Prairie Fruits Farm, Urbana, IL.

    Cheese Chevre Herb de Provence

    $7.49

3 Item(s)