The cheeses from Green Dirt Farm are built from the soil, up

The reason Green Dirt Farm is named Green Dirt Farm is that owner Sarah Hoffmann focuses on the health of her soil before any other consideration.

Sarah was a military brat (just like me!) and whenever her family was stationed in a new area, they would rent a small farm and grow their own food. Sarah’s background is in science, which is a perfect platform from which to build a life as a cheesemaker. She left her medical career because she wanted to give her children the kind of childhood she had, growing up surrounded by plants, animals, fresh air and sunshine.

When she committed to farming, she concentrated first on building the health of her soil, knowing that healthy soil would support a diverse array of healthy prairie grasses which, in turn, would be devoured by her sheep, who would give delicious milk for her cheeses.

Those sheep are tended by Eliza Spertus, Sarah’s daughter, who left her conventional office job to come back home to the farm and watch over the health and well-being of the flock. Eliza’s role in the creamery is vital. Without healthy, happy sheep, you don’t have delicious milk and without delicious milk, you don’t have delicious cheese. It all starts in the pasture, with those native grasses, and that vital soil.

The healthy, happy sheep are milked in the farm’s parlor and the milk, which is higher in protein and fat than milk from cows or sheep, is entrusted to Rachel Kleine, head cheesemaker. In her capable hands, the cheese makers at the creamery turn that pristine sheep’s milk into a range of cheeses.

The fresh cheese, much like a goat-milk chèvre, is tangy and spreadable. Bloomy rinds include Dirt Lover, which has a coating of vegetable ash that helps to neutralize the rind’s pH ; Wooly Rind, a lactic-style cheese that ripens to runny perfection from the outside in; Winter Wooly is the winter offering that combines sheep’s milk with jersey milk from local farms; and Ruby, another blended-milk cheese that is washed at the beginning of the aging process. Tuffet is Green Dirt’s lactic-style cheese that is delicate and yeasty. Bossa is a washed-rind cheese and the Prairie Tomme is a hard cheese as is the Aux Arcs, a blended-milk hard cheese.

What’s amazing is that all of these cheeses are made from the same thing: milk. What differentiates any cheese is the skill of the cheesemaker and the quality of the milk that they use. Of course, there are other variables, but the critical ingredient is milk, and at Green Dirt, quality is built in the pasture.

Catherine Neville