Adding Value to Our Seventh Generation Dairy Farm by Turning Our Milk into Farmstead and Artisan Cheeses

2010 Annual Report for FNC09-773

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2009: $6,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2011
Region: North Central
State: Illinois
Project Coordinator:

Adding Value to Our Seventh Generation Dairy Farm by Turning Our Milk into Farmstead and Artisan Cheeses


The individuals at Marcoot Jersey Creamery have been hard at work this year. We began making cheese March 31, 2010. We make cheese a minimum of 3 times a week. This past year has been a year of experimenting with many different styles of cheeses and testing them out on our markets via farmers markets. We have a total of 13 different cheeses that we are making at this time. We are currently making four raw milk aged cheese (Cheddar, Alpine, Appenzeller, and Tomme). These cheeses age in our man-made cheese cave a minimum of 4 months. We are making 6 pasteurized cheeses (Pepper Jack, Tomato Basil Jack, Havarti, Gouda, Farmhouse Cheddar and Baby Swiss). We are making 3 fresh cheeses (3 varieties of Quark, Fresh Mozzerella, 3 varieties of cheese curds).

We also have worked very hard to get into a variety of stores in the St. Louis Market. We are currently selling our cheese in Dierbergs Grocery Store (23 stores total), Local Harvest Grocery, Sappingtons Farmers Market, 2 CSA’s. We are currently in 5 restaurants.

We used our grant funds this year by buying cheese molds and buying brochures which was a substantial part of our requested money. We bought 100 European cheese molds for a total of $8,000. We also purchased 15,000 brochures at $2,560.00.

We knew from the beginning that education of our value-added project to the community would be key in our success. We want people to understand the importance of what we are doing and how it positively can affect them and our environment. Not to mention, the value of being able to carry on our family legacy of raising and caring for Jersey cows. We have worked very hard to educate the public on the value of farmstead cheese. We are all Jersey, all natural, no hormones, and grass fed. These facts provide many health benefits to our consumer. One small way is to create brochures that educate our community.

Education is critical to our success. However, the most important aspect of what we do is to create a product the consumer wants. Having proper equipment is a major aspect of being able to do this. We bought 100 cheese molds with our grant money. Having these particular molds allows us to create a great product and be cost effective at the same time.

Presently, we have added 1.33 FTE’s. We look to increase employment in the next year.

There are a variety of results of our cheese making venture to this point. We feel confident that we have grown as a company in our understanding of the cheese market. We feel we have competitive products and competitive pricing. We have gone from selling our products to only farmers markets to selling in 23 stores in an elite St. Louis grocery chain, 5 restaurants, and 5 smaller grocery stores. We look for this to increase significantly in the next two months.

We are constantly learning and growing in our business and with our understanding of how to make and care for our cheese. We feel as if our cheese making skills have increased significantly. Our consultants, Neville McNaughton and Jim Gage, report that our quality of cheese has gone from good to excellent within the last 4 months.

For the next year we will continue making cheese 3 days a week. We anticipate having to increase our herd in 1 year to keep up with demand. Our primary goal is to make cheeses that will be competitive with other cheeses. We will continue to work with Neville McNaughton and other consultants to improve. We hope to purchase more equipment, such as other cheese molds, that will allow us to becoming more efficient.

We anticipate that we will continue to learn about other markets and avenues that will allow us to sell more cheese.

Another aspect of our work plan is to continue educating the public on the value of our cheese. We hope to increase tourism (which allows us to educate our consumer) on our farm by adding highway road signs. We also hope to host more tour groups. This will therefore increase sales through our on-farm store. We also hope to create more informational cards such as recipe cards for our consumers to be able to understand different ways to use our cheese.

One way that I shared information this past year is by speaking at the Farmers Forum at the National Small Farm Trade Show and Conference [in November]. We also share our project with others on a daily basis through having an on-farm retail store. We built our facility with viewing windows in the Grade A and Grade B sides of the production facility. We want the public to be able to come and watch. Through this they ask questions and we are able to educate them about our processes. We also allow tour groups to come to our facility. We have school groups to senior groups that have participated in this. This provides us with an amazing opportunity to educate the public. My family and I have always been passionate about education.

We anticipate that our school tours and other tours will increase over the next year. We also anticipate having more direct sales through our on-farm retail store. We have recently added highway road signs that will allow the public to know where we are located. We also recently had an article in the St. Louis Post Dispatch which has increased our store attendance significantly. The St. Louis Post article generated many other articles throughout the state of Illinois. Another article that has generated tours and business on our farm was put out through the Southwestern Tourism agency. The article was put in a tour book that can be found in hotels, rest stops, and gas stations in this region of Illinois.

The city of Greenville also paid for Show Me St. Louis to come to our facility. This is a very popular St. Louis based TV program that highlights area attractions. We have had and continue to have an increase of consumers on our farm.