When today’s guest Leslie Cooperband, and her husband, Wes Jarrell, started Prairie Fruits Farm and Creamery in 2005, they didn’t expect the goat dairy and creamery to become the primary driver of the farm. Located just outside of Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, Prairie Fruits Farm and Creamery has over seventy milking does providing the basis for their goat cheese and gelato business, which they run in addition to a vigorous on- farm dinner enterprise. We discuss the history of the farm and its various production and marketing enterprises, including market development, how Leslie and Wes navigated the regulatory landscape in a state that lacked farmstead creameries, and how the farm has grown and changed to meet the realities of the farm economy while staying true to its principles - and we dig into the nuts and bolts of the record-keeping Prairie Fruits uses to keep on top of the profitability of various enterprises and market outlets, including on-farm sales, farmers markets, CSA, and wholesale sales.
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Quotes from the Show
It can’t just be because it feels right, it has to make economic sense as well.
[Regulators] don’t like secrets. They really don’t like to find out after the fact.
Although they regulate cheese and dairy products, their understanding of cheese is so primitive that it is a real hindrance in getting them to understand what the relative risks are associated with different cheese styles. Because they don’t even understand cheese, and the likelihood that certain cheeses will or won’t be more conducive to harboring pathogens.
Not having any off-farm income forced us to be much more on top of the economics of these different enterprises.
We’re finding that it’s harder and harder to make the income we need to make in a ten-month period that can sustain us for the time of year that we’re not actively milking goats and making cheese.
Leslie’s favorite resource for farmstead creameries and cheesemaking is Gianaclis Caldwell, author of the book, The Small-Scale Cheese Business: The Complete Guide to Running a Successful Farmstead Creamery.
Leslie also recommended smalldairy.com (which is now located at smalldairy.info) and consultant Peter Dickson’s website.
Prairie Fruits has a commercial gelato maker from Carpigiani.