3 “Green” Cheese Picks for Earth Day

by dccheese on April 22, 2013

in Cheesemakers & People,Cheesemaking

Meat and dairy animals — and cows in particular — get a bad rap on the environmental front. In contrast to conventional agriculture, we tend to think that artisanal and farmstead cheesemakers are pretty good stewards of their land. (Much of the flavor of the cheese is determined by the quality of the pasture, after all.) And while cheesemaking may be an ancient tradition, cheesemakers are constantly advancing innovative practices that promote sustainability for the farmers, the industry, and the earth. In honor of Earth Day, here are just three examples of “green” innovations in the cheese industry.

wind power at Bleu Mont Dairy

1. Bleu Mont Dairy, Wisconsin (Try: Bandaged Cheddar)

Building cheese caves underground isn’t just for nostalgia — they provide a temperature- and humidity-controlled climate that cheese requires with less energy than would be needed to maintain those conditions above ground. Cheesemaker and affineur Willi Lehner built a cave in the limestone of Wisconsin’s southwestern Driftless region, then powered it with wind and solar energy for true energy independence. (Pictures above and below taken when we visited Bleu Mont in November ’11.)

solar powered cheese Bleu Mont Dairy

2. Pholia Farm, Oregon (Try: Elk Mountain)

Gianaclis Caldwell’s small, farmstead goat dairy in southern Oregon is entirely off-grid, solar and hydro-powered. Caldwell also leads an intensive farmstead cheesemaker course on the farm to educate a new crop of cheesemakers. Read more about Pholia here.

3. Jasper Hill Farm, Vermont (Try: Winnimere)

The Kehler brothers of Jasper Hill Farm/Cellars at Jasper Hill are innovators in many ways. (Check back later this week to read about their newest cheese creation.) Last August, their “Green Machine” was put into service to “integrate waste treatment, nutrient management, and energy recovery strategies into a single ‘closed loop’ system.” In less scientific terms, the farm’s liquid and solid waste (manure, whey, wash water) is converted to compost, heating energy and water for irrigation. See how it works on their website.

And a bonus 4th: Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese, also of Wisconsin, has gotten a fair bit of press coverage as a carbon-negative farm with an anaerobic digestion system that generates enough electricity to power the farm, cheese plant and 300 neighboring homes. Read more here. (And look for their Petit Frère with earthy truffles.)

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