It’s that time of year again: the wind is a-howlin’, the noses are a-snifflin’, and Punxsutawney Phil predicted yet another six weeks of winter (but really, we all saw that coming). Thankfully, the Cheese Co-Op—which has just merged with the Local Co-Op—is back and ready to warm all of our frozen hearts with its creamy confectionaries. What better time than now to curl up with your favorite book (or a class reading), a glass of something red, and a box of Ritz crackers that you entirely intend on finishing, with your only justification being that you’re smothering each salty, processed bite with the taste of a much classier cheesy spread?
If you have a coveted spot in the Cheese Co-Op—for the price of 33 points or higher—then you have probably been enjoying our first delivery. And if you’ve participated in the Cheese Co-Op before, then you also probably know that the process of picking up your share is a quick and easy one. But do you know about the quaint, local farms that provide the cheese?
The Wesleyan Cheese Co-Op has developed strong working relationships with a few farms in the Connecticut/Massachusetts area. Its committee communicates with representatives from each farm, figuring out budgets so that dairy devotees may enjoy the fruit of their cows’/sheeps’/goats’ labor. Cato Corner Farm and Beltane Farm are just two farms that the Co-Op has worked with, and they have provided the bulk of the deliveries for as long as I have been at Wesleyan.
Cato Corner Farm, located in Colchester, Connecticut just east of Middletown, produces cow milk cheese. Here’s the blurb from the front page of their website, www.catocornerfarm.com:
“Cato Corner Farm is a small family farm in Colchester, Connecticut, where the mother-son team of Elizabeth and Mark raises 40 free-range Jersey cows without the use of hormones or subtherapeutic antibiotics.
From our cows’ raw milk, we hand make a dozen styles of aged farmhouse cheese ranging from mild and milky to runny and pungent to sharp and firm.”
Their cheeses have won numerous awards, both in state and nationally. Cato provides Wesleyan with a range of cheeses, from sharper hard cheeses to crumbly blue cheeses, all of which are phenomenal. Its Womanchego—a feminist spin on the classic Spanish cheese—has absolutely nothing to do with gender but is absolutely delicious.
Located in Lebanon, Connecticut, Beltane Farm makes its cheese from goat’s milk. Its claim to fame is its tangy chevre, or goat cheese, that can be purchased with multiple spice options, including “herbs de Provence” and “Black Pepper”. From its description on www.beltanefarm.com,
“Beltane Farm makes a variety of artisanal, farmstead goat milk cheese on our farm in Lebanon, Connecticut. Although our award winning fresh Chevre is our most popular cheese, we also make a number of fine French style ripened cheeses as well as Feta. Our Oberhasli, La Mancha and Saanen goats are milked twice daily and provide the milk for our cheese.”
As the Beltane representative, Paul, informed me, the farm’s goats don’t start kidding until the end of February, so their batches of cheese won’t be coming until the latter half of the semester.
All of the Co-Ops at Wesleyan strive to provide students with fresh, local ingredients and support small businesses. It is a truly wonderful opportunity not only to be able to cook with great ingredients but also to develop working relationships with people and communities in the towns around Wesleyan’s campus. Being situated in central Connecticut certainly has its snowy drawbacks, but opportunities like these remind us that in our industrialized world, we can bond over organic foods and sustainable agriculture.
-Becca Brand ’16