Washington and Oregon are littered with small farming towns all across the state, though you usually only ever hear about the bigger cities like Seattle or Portland. I grew up in rural Oregon where I had friends whose families farmed or had horses, and my first job was picking strawberries for a dollar a flat at the local strawberry fields. I am very much a city person but I have lots of experience in rural areas. I understand and see the allure of living in these places but it's not something I ever see myself doing. I do love to slow down for a minute and visit these tiny towns. Tieton is great for this because it's basically one city block though it boasts a ton of wonderful things. One of the things that make it extraordinary is Tieton Farm and Creamery. Washington has numerous cheese making ventures but they are spread out widely through the state. It's clear driving through Yakima Valley why Ruth and Lori Babcock chose Tieton as their land. It's always such a change crossing over any mountain range but the Cascades are something else entirely. Traveling through the lush forest with snow on the ground over Snoqualmie Pass to the dry, desert lands of Yakima Valley can be a surreal experience if you aren't used to it. It's quite stark in its contrast.
We pulled up to the farm with the buzz of dirt bikes from the track across the street but it didn't take long before the sounds of animals were all you could hear. TF&C are host to goats, sheep, cows, chickens, ducks, horses, and whey-fed pigs. It was the first day the animals were fully out to pasture because the grasses were finally high enough to feed them without destroying the land. It was also an open farm day so we were able to walk around at our leisure with just the click of the electric fences to remind us to stay where we belonged. Kidding season is pretty much done for the year so there were no lack of adorable babies everywhere on the farm. We got to hang out by the goats as they received their lunch of dried alfalfa and it was so cute seeing the babies pile up on each other to get theirs.
Tieton Farm and Creamery make a few select varieties of cheese. Ruth told me that she gets bored after making the same things forever, so they are continuously coming up with new products. We tried their full line of mixed milk cheeses but went home with Sonnet which is a bloomy rind cheese that packs a lot of flavor. It's creamy and tangy with lovely citrus notes and the tell tale wrinkles of a geotrichum mold. Venus was another that made its way home with us. It's a raw milk, aged, tomme style cheese that has been washed with Tieton Cider Works cider. The sweet tones from the cider infuse in the cheese to create a nutty, tanginess that is pretty irresistible. I loved Bianca also due to the fact that it's a blend of sheep and goat milk which adds a layer of interest in the fresh cheese category. The sheep milk adds a richness that goats milk can't accomplish on its own. They make a bit of something for everyone including a hop washed cheese, a stinky washed rind, and an ash covered bloomy puck. We also made out with a carton of duck eggs!
It's always such a great thing to be able to get up close and personal with the farmers and animals. It builds a connection with where your food is coming from and who is making it. In a world that can often make me feel disconnected with my food, I find these trips to reinvigorate me and get me excited about what is happening in the food world. There is so much happening right underneath our noses that if we just take a moment to appreciate the people working hard to create delicious food for us, we can appreciate the world around us a bit more. Plus, baby animals are cute.
I understand that it's not always easy to get out to the farm so Sheri over at Culture Club Cheese Bar is helping! She is hosting a fantastic event with Ruth and Lori Babcock. You can meet the farmers, taste delicious cheese, and enjoy some beer and wine pairings. Thursday April 14th from 6-8pm. Call 206-556-4033 for reservations and pricing.