Cheese Farming Nebraska
After facing a dearth of homegrown dairy-based delights, Nebraska's enterprising farmersteaders are happily spreading cheese and smiles across the state.
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Victory Hill Farm
For six years, Sarah Pinet spent her days with chimps and Bengal tigers as a zookeeper in Scottsbluff’s Riverside Park and Zoo. So when she became a stay-at-home mom of three children on a 5-acre farm, it was only natural to add a goat for company.
“One goat turned into many,” Pinet said. The many goats produced the milk that led her into the joy and pain of being an artisan cheesemaker.
“I have to know so much about dairying and cheesemaking and marketing and bookkeeping and just about everything you can imagine,” she sighed.
But Pinet gives a nod to these 40 playful goats, whose milk has given her cheese a lemony, tangy taste that gets a salute from her husband, Lee, a Scottsbluff police officer. One of her popular cheeses is a cheddar shesoaks in beer and then presses into a wheel.
Pinet also sells gouda, feta, mozzarella and chevre, and customers are always fishing for creative twists. One guy slices Pinet’s feta on salmon. Visit www.vhfarm.com or call (308) 630-0530.
For 20 years, Chane Bidwell had a thriving construction business in Colorado Springs, Colo., but in 2008 he decided to dig out of the housing-market bust by fixing up an abandoned barn in Overton.
After he and his wife, Michelle, lived in one room without plumbing or electricity for 14 months and sometimes shared the space with their three children, they completed the Bidwell Goat Farm and then started in on a milk-processing room.
“Overton just felt like I was supposed to be there,” he said. “The key to cheese is patience.”
They now have 14 flavors of cheese from Nubian goats that Bidwell says produce a creamier butter fat that wows “Fetaheads”and makes a cheddar that cooks up a heavenly mac and cheese. The cheese is sold at area outlets including the Flatwater Food and Automotive store in Overton, which he owns with his brother. Visit www.theuddermilk.com or (309) 987-2208.
Clear Creek Organic Farms
Bob Bernt’s family farm has been operating for nearly 130 years, but he’s brought the art of cheesemaking to these 700 acres where Clear Creek flows into the Cedar River. Perhaps this setting produces grass that keeps his 80 Jersey cows happily delivering milk that his wife, Kristine, turns into cheese. Bob says loyal customers travel as far as 180 miles to their farm for the smoked cheddar and garlic and parsley cheeses. He’s also gotten great feedback testing their walnut cheese at area stores.
While his wife handles the cheese, Bernt makes ice cream and European butter in the same plant, which he says is one of a kind. “Our plant is the only that I know of, maybe in the United States, that does all three processes.” And their 12 adult children are always ready to lend 24 helping hands.
When it comes to eating cheese, Bernt has just one tip: “It’s a product, especially our product, that really needs to be consumed throughout the day.” Visit www.clearcreekorganicfarms.webs.com or call (308) 750-1086.
(This story originally appeared in the November/December 2013 issue of Nebraska Life Magazine)