Amy and Beth Marcoot grew up on their family dairy farm and once they left, they didn’t intend to stay. Both girls left for college first getting Bachelors’s degrees followed by Masters’s. Beth even went on to live outside of the country for a year. But then when their dad started thinking about retiring and selling the farm, the girls just couldn’t let the dairy tradition leave their family. So they put their heads together and came up with a new idea. A creamery! The Marcoot Jersey Creamery to be exact. They set their plan in place as the seventh generation of their family to raise and milk Jersey cattle. They brought in their childhood friend, Audie Wall and the rest is cheese history.
I met the women of the Marcoot Creamery on a warm early spring day. Stepping inside the tidy and nicely decorated tasting room, I knew I was in for a treat. We got a quick start. They had already been up before dawn, preparing to make Gouda cheese out of 5000 pounds of rich Jersey milk.
Starting at the creamery source
We started at the source: with the Jersey cows. There I met Beth, the younger of the two sisters running the creamery (they have more siblings who are not involved).
Beth is in charge of everything outside. This includes raising and caring for the cattle and overseeing the milking operations. She took us into one of the buildings and showed us something completely and UDDERLY (haha) amazing…two robotic milkers!
The Help of a Few Robots
She explained to me that the cows wear an electronic bracelet that monitors their health, how often they have milked, and a variety of other factors. When the cows approach the robot to be milked, the machine reads their bracelet and decides if it is time to be milked.
If it isn’t, they are ushered on through back out of the barn. If they are ready to be milked (most cows are milked about 3 times a day) the machine gives them a small amount of feed and sets them to work.
First, it cleans the teats. Then makes quick work of milking the cow. The milk is stored in huge cooling tanks where it waits to be pumped overhead to the creamery.
Beth explained that the addition of the robotic milkers was an investment that she and her sister made on the farm. And a great one it was. It allows Beth to have a more normal schedule than if she had to be out milking her cows multiple times daily. It has not only helped her with family life but has brought efficiency and increased milk production to the farm.
Let the Cheesemaking Begin
Up next, I made my way back up to the creamery. I followed Amy and Audie into the main cheesemaking area to watch the process unfold. They worked seamlessly together, showing me how they mix in the rennet to solidify the milk. Then they separated the curds from the whey. Once the whey was drained off they worked to press the curds into large boxes so it could drain.
I wasn’t the only one watching in awe of the women though. I was joined by a group of busy 4th graders, out for a field trip.
As we waited for the cheese to drain, I followed Audie down to the man-made cheese cave right there on site. Row after row of beautifully finished cheese was a sight I won’t soon forget. Audie, who is an engineer by trade, helicopter pilot by choice, and self-taught cheesemaker explained how the cave worked and that it brings a unique flavor to their cheeses. I have to say, after trying all of the different goudas, the cave-aged one was definitely my favorite!
Going All the Whey
We then went back upstairs for a quick taste test of not only cheese but also of the unique Whey Ice product the women have concocted. I didn’t expect to love the Whey Ice, having tried and not been a big fan of whey before. But…I was WRONG!
They gave me a slushy drink made of whey and 100% crushed fruit – pineapple and mango in this case. I couldn’t stop at just a sip and soon had downed the whole cup. This was a product the women came up with to utilize the protein-rich by-product of whey on the farm.
Beth, Amy, and Audie were a pleasure to visit and get to know. Each driven in their own unique way, bringing a diverse set of talents back to the farm. These women have worked hard to not only keep their family legacy alive but to allow it to grow and change to reflect who they are. Their innovative nature, stick-to-itivness, and zest for life are a lesson for the ages.