I can readily admit that I haven't explored much of Washington in the three years I've lived here, and that's kind of the idea behind this blog. To explore my area more fully and taste my way around the PNW. I am a huge proponent of American Artisan cheese so I want to know more about what's happening in my backyard. I've known that Bellingham and the surrounding area are a hot bed for dairy and cheesemaking and I had plans of making my way up there for quite some time so when I saw a tour already planned and mapped out, I made sure that I would be there. This was a self guided tour was hosted by Sustainable Connections and took people through 12 stops that included farms, farmer's markets, and a couple of vineyards. They did have the opportunity to have a guided tour that went to each stop which was great for those that live in the area.
We took our time getting out the door because Saturdays are often the first day of the week that sleeping in is truly feasible. The drive to Bellingham is only about an hour and a half and it went by quickly. I have to say I kind of failed at planning out the day before we left so we got in to town and needed to figure out where we were going to go from there. We stopped at the Bellingham Farmer's Market but they clearly posted that no dogs were allowed so instead of wandering the market, we grabbed a bite to eat at Community Food Co-op then made our way to the first stop.
Twin Brook Farm is practically on the Canadian border in Lynden, WA. Family owned and operated since 1910, Twin Brook has sold milk on the commodity market for most of that time. In 1995 they decided it was time to diversify and to add value to their company by bottling and labeling under their own name and brand using glass bottles. They own two dairy farms that provide the milk but we got the tour of the heritage farm and got to stand in the barn that was raised by Larry's great parents. Their products consist of 100% pure Jersey cow milk and they make a variety of items including chocolate milk, egg nog, and buttermilk.
They believe in being stewards for the environment and pasture the animals during the summer and using feed and hay grown from the land during the winter months. They have recently switched to robotic milkers and while it was a costly undertaking, Larry said that the animals output has increased. The cows now decide when they are ready to milk and through the use of the computer the herdsman can get a proper reading on the overall health of the animal.
From there we headed over to Appel Farms Cheese shop where they sell all of their cheese and accoutrements from neighboring farms. In the back they have a cute area for a few animals and a pond that is a great place to relax.
Ferndale Farmstead took this day as an opportunity to have their first Seed to Cheese farm dinner. Since they do Italian style cheeses, it makes sense that they had a local pizza truck from Pizza'zza doing pies featuring cheeses made at the farm. It was a perfect evening to sit out in the field and to enjoy some slices.
Ferndale Farmstead may be a new player on the scene but they are crafting some of the finest (and only) Italian style cheeses in the area. Three generations of farming experience come in to play here and when one of the sons found Artisan cheese while in college, the family rallied to help make his dream happen. From grass seed to cheese, everything is done right there on the farm.
The farm tour was a great way to see a few places in one day but I definitely want to go back and do a bit more exploring. There is a lot more to experience and more places to visit. This was just the tip of the iceberg.
I highly recommend getting tickets to the Washington Artisan Cheesemakers Festival held at the Seattle Design Center on September 24th from 1pm-5pm. Ferndale Farmstead will be there representing and it's a great way to experience all the deliciousness we have in our state. I'll be working the Cheese shop until 3pm so I hope to see you there!