Yellow Springs Farm – Chester County, PA

Sometimes opportunities present at just the right moment. Such was it last week when a somewhat impromptu trip took me back east to my roots to visit an emerging cheese scene in my home state of Pennsylvania.

Chester County has been an agricultural region since colonial times. Close proximity to Philadelphia markets and port access to carry goods to markets up and down the coast and to Europe made this region prime agricultural land.

Historic stone houses and barns pop up along winding country roads. Endless, fenced fields, some with charming hedgerows, expand around every bend once you’re off of the main highways. It’s ideal, cheese making country!

The Chester County Cheese Artisans are a small but growing group of cheesemakers who have literally transformed the local cheese landscape over the last few years. I was amazed at the beauty of the region in springtime as well as the lovely people producing some mighty delicious cheese.

The visit was on assignment with Cheese Connoisseur Magazine. These images are the “outakes.” Look for my favorite shots in the Summer, 2014 edition.

Our first visit was to Yellow Springs Farm in Chester Springs.

Lightroom (_MG_4960.CR2 and 2 others)

(Photos: l-r) The herd crowds around herd manager for a bit of hay. Cloud Nine, a ripened, French-style goat cheese, begins its aging process. A stone spring house cooled the milk and was essential to dairies in the days before refrigeration.

In addition to being a dairy, the property is also a native plant nursery. The property was a dairy farm as far back as 150 years ago and was granted a conservation easement in 2001, protecting it from future development.

Yellow Springs Farm Goat Cheeses - Native Plant Nursery - Marsh Marigold-4954

 

Yellow Springs Farm Goat Cheeses-4822

An assortment of cheese and yogurt made at Yellow Springs from their herd of Nubian Goats. Check out their impressive number of cheeses and cultured dairy products available at local markets or via CSA.

My favorite was the orb shaped Cloud Nine in the center – it had a lovely texture and clean, citrusy tang. The perfect cheese to grace the center of your plate.

Another stand out was Nutcracker, which is flavored with Black Walnut, an indigenous tree to the region. The cheesemakers use the spent walnut fruits from their production of Nocino, an Italian Nut Liqueur made from nuts raised on their farm. Very regional and inventive.

When I left the mid-Atlantic for Austin in 1997, I never could have imagined living away for so long. When my great cheese adventure began in 1998, American cheese was barely a ripple in the big cheese pond and cheeses from Pennsylvania were definitely not artisan on any scale. Like (re)emerging dairy regions around the country, it is great to see small scale dairy making a resurgence and changing the edible landscape of another community. If you want to know more about the vibrant local cheese scene, check out this article.

Still to come on the Chester County Cheese Trail – a visit to the idyllic Farm at Doe Run.