Smile And Say Cheese

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Story by Dave Eckert

There aren’t many foods I enjoy more than cheese. And while I love a great French, Swiss, Italian, or Spanish cheese, there are plenty of delicious regional cheeses to be sampled and savored.

I start my cheese exploration at Westin’s Green Dirt Farm where owner Sarah Hoffman has been turning out award-winning sheep’s milk cheese since 2008, though Hoffman’s sojourn into cheese began a full decade earlier. “It was 1998, and my third child had just been born. I decided to leave my job (as an academic physician) and pursue a life on the farm. Four years later, I came up with the idea for Green Dirt Farm-a humane, environmentally sustainable sheep dairy,” Hoffman shared. 


Photo courtesy of Green Dirt Farm

It took six years for her idea to become reality, but when it did, Hoffman almost immediately began winning awards. The first Blue Ribbon came in 2009 for Bossa, Green Dirt’s signature cheese  and my personal favorite. “Bossa is an original recipe, washed-rind sheep’s milk cheese, which is very unusual. The seasonality of it makes it virtually impossible to make in the spring and summer. We have to wait for the sheep’s lactation cycle to have more concentrated milk in the late summer and fall. Bossa is definitely a labor of love,” Hoffman shared.

There have been many awards and many cheeses since Green Dirt’s Bossa snagged that initial blue ribbon, and from a novice cheesemaker, Hoffman has grown into a confident and experienced cheesemaker. Still, she says she never takes cheesemaking for granted. “Artisinal cheesemaking is all about trial and error. For example, we don’t standardize our milk. We use the milk as it comes to us, which means we have to adjust our cheesemaking with each batch of milk, so I am always learning,” Hoffman stated.

For more information on Green Dirt Farm cheeses visit greendirtfarm.com


Photo courtesy of Hemme Brothers

In Sweet Springs, Missouri, lies my next regional cheese producer – Hemme Brothers and their collection of cow’s milk cheeses. “I have four sons and a daughter, and we worked, and worked, and worked. My wife said to me, ‘You can’t work the kids that hard or you’re gonna run them off the farm.’ Well, they all left the farm, went to college, then came home. When they did, we decided we either needed  to milk a lot more cows or develop a value-added product. We decided on the product, and that product was cheddar cheese,” David Hemme told me.  

The Hemme’s started making cheese in August, 2016 – cheese that they sold in the wine tent at the Missouri State Fair that same year. It’s been seven years of learning and growth since. The Hemme Brothers now produce ten flavors of cheese curds, seven flavors of cheddar cheese blocks, a spreadable cheese called Quark, mozzarella, feta, and a melting cheese, which is marketed into the Latino restaurant community. Value-added product indeed! 

I asked Hemme what he felt was important for consumers to know about his family-run cheese company. “We control everything. We grow the crops, make the feed, graze all of the cows from baby calves through to adulthood. We do all the milking. It’s total transparency in all of our business. We feel if you do right by your animals, they will do right by you. It’s as simple as that,” Hemme stated.

You can find Hemme Brothers cheese at hemmebrothers.com 


Photo courtesy of Jason Wiebe Dairy

Finally, on the Kansas side in the town of Durham, a visit with Jason Wiebe of the Jason Wiebe Dairy. Like David Hemme before him, Wiebe says cheesemaking was an effort to add value to the dairy. “We wanted more control over our income, especially in times of very low milk prices. We wanted to add value to our milk by turning it into cheese. But that wasn’t the only factor. Sheri (Jason’s wife) and I both grew up near cheese plants, and we missed the taste of good, fresh cheddar cheese,” Wiebe shared.

Wiebe Dairy is known for its wide variety of delicious cheddar cheese. “We make both raw and pasteurized cheddars, and also different styles. For example, Mild, Medium, and Sharp along with a Marbled Colby. We like to add flavors to our cheddars: Jalapeno Habanero, Dill, Bacon, Cajun, Chipotle, Garlic ‘n Herb, and Garden Vegetable. And, our specialty cheese and our best seller, the Cottonwood River Reserve, is unique to our dairy. It develops tyrosine crystals around eight months of age, and we age it a year before releasing it,” Wiebe said.

You can find Weibe cheeses throughout the KC metro, and they’ll even ship it directly to you. Visit them online at jasonwiebedairy.com.

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