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December 03, 2016
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Highland Farm: The Next Generation and Calkins Creamery artisan cheeses

A strategically placed wheel of “Cowtipper,” one of Calkins Creamery’s first cheeses, shows off Highland Farm in the background.
Contributed photo

In free moments they would daydream about Highland Farm, and the possibilities contained within the American cheese market. The opportunities that appeared to exist around Wayne County were certainly enticing, so they began to research the systems and costs associated with farm-based cheese production. Emily’s roots, which traverse back through five generations of dairy farm know-how and perseverance, began to bring forward the bloom of something fresh and full of possibility: an entrepreneurial venture into cheese making that would fuse the couple’s creativity, food science knowledge, business savvy and their heartfelt longing to help sustain and grow the family farm.

Happy cows

According to Jay and Emily’s first business plan, “Calkins Creamery will specialize in fine, artisan cheeses, using only the freshest milk possible from our very own herd of registered Holstein cattle.”

Cows have been wandering the grassy pastures of Highland Farm since 1841. These days, Emily’s father, Bill, and her brother, Zack, care for a herd of 160 head of registered Holstein cattle, in addition to 18 whey-fed pigs. Naturally, what the animals eat affects the taste of pork, beef and milk. Much effort is put into cultivating healthy pastureland as the foundation for delectable farm products. “Our cows are well cared for and comfortable,” Emily says. “Cow comfort reduces stress and results in an increase of milk production and butterfat.”
“The creamery complements the farm and vice versa,” Jay adds. Integrated, sustainable agriculture and land conservation projects that have been initiated by Bill and Zack result in vibrant pastures, very healthy livestock and ultra-tasty meats and cheeses.

Jay is quick to give credit to Emily for the success of Calkins Creamery. “Emily is really the brains behind the cheese operation,” he says. “Her background in food sciences has been very helpful. It is a tall task to go from never making cheese to running a creamery.” Because the base ingredient of these farmstead cheeses is raw milk, food safety expertise and continual oversight are paramount. But certainly true artistry comes into the success equation too. Emily is continually experimenting and developing new varieties of farmstead cheese that gain the loyalty of a growing base of customers, evidenced by over 1000 Facebook “likes” to date.