Friday, December 31, 2010

End of a year, and press

2010 brought many good things to Meadow Creek - our new energy efficient wood and solar fired boiler, awards for both Appalachian and Grayson at ACS, and our new porter washed mini-Graysons. We saw some challenges, too - record snows and record dry periods.

Various magazines, columns and blogs had good things to say about our cheeses; the latest from Janet Fletcher this week in her San Francisco Chronicle cheese column. An admitted fan of Grayson, she praised Appalachian saying "the internal color is fantastic, a deep sunflower yellow from the carotene in the cow's diet." She went on to note "the aroma is shy, hinting at warm butter and cream, the flavor mild and buttery... the cheese coats your palate, like soft fudge".

Thanks Janet, and many thanks to all our friends and customers for a great year. Here's hoping 2011 lives up to it!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Snow Days

The early snowstorm that covered the pastures last Saturday is driving all the news at Meadow Creek. Without access to grass for our herd, we had to stop cheesemaking a week earlier than expected. We believe that our cheese should only be made when the cows are getting most of their nutrition from grass. The cheese house staff will now concentrate all their efforts in the cellar and on sales. Because we are a raw milk cheese producer the cheese we made last week won't come of age for release until early February. At this point we expect to have Grayson and Appalachian available into the first part of March and possibly longer. Mountaineer will be available until July.

Enjoy the snow, everyone!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Grayson A Good Food Awards Finalist

We're very pleased to announce our Grayson is one of the finalists in the brand new Good Food Awards - The Good Food Awards will be given across five American regions and in seven food categories. In the cheese category, the judges picked out the "tastiest" cheeses which also met their standards of "good animal husbandry, without the use of hormones, and without the use of herbicides and pesticides on the pastures and in feed." We're honored to be one of the five finalists in the Eastern region.

Winners for the Good Food Awards will be announced at a ceremony in San Francisco on January 14, 2011.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Sustainable energy on the farm...

Now that the temperatures have dropped we are really reaping the benefits of our wood and solar fired boiler. It's fully operational, heating our water and providing warmth for all areas of the cheesehouse. Already we've seen significant savings in our propane usage.

Installation of this system has been yet another step in Meadow Creek's long term focus on sustainability, one of the Dairy's primary goals from its very beginning in 1988. The low emissions boiler uses downed wood from our 80 wooded acres - allowing us to close the waste loop and utilize more resources from the farm. We can truly boast that our award winning cheese based on flavor and texture is also a winner for the environment.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Ahh just in time for the holidays..

Typically fall is the time to enjoy the best washed rind cheese, having developed a rich flavor and texture. The Graysons we're tasting now are custardy and have a silky feel on the tongue, with a delicious fruitiness and pleasant earthy notes. With all the attention to the debut of our Mini-Graysons and the release of our Mountaineer... plus the media love fest with Appalachian... we can almost over look our star and best-selling cheese. So, we must not miss out this special time of year for Grayson, especially as we enter the holiday season.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Mountaineers are coming!

Good things come to those who are patient -- we are pleased to announce the release of Mountaineer, our alpine-style cheese for the season. The beginning of cheesemake last spring seems like a distant memory, but the first of our Mountaineers have been aging graciously in our cellar all this time.

Our cheesemakers are really pleased with this year's Mountaineer. They feel it has hit its stride tasting sweet and fruity, with a satisfying toasted aftertaste. The wheels wield 14 pounds of tasty goodness and they'll be rolling every which way into specialty cheese shops next week. We dare you to spot (and taste!) these delicious red giants.

Friday, October 22, 2010

New Meadow Creek Cheese!...Mini Grayson

We are pleased to announce the release of our newest experiment in affinage -- the Mini Grayson. For some time we've had an interest in making a smaller format cheese, and our very successful Grayson seemed a perfect candidate. We combined the traditional European practice of washing cheese in spirits with Highland Brewing Company's excellent local beers to create a cheese that surpassed our expectations. More than just a pint-sized Grayson, the Mini has taken on a style all its own.

Petit and flavorful, the Mini has Grayson's distinctive reddish-orange rind but with a silkier, melting texture. In taste it is sweet and grassy with a mild yeastiness and a strong creamy finish. As the Mini crosses the sixty-day line, it takes on more of the characteristics of the beer we wash it in, developing a sweet, hoppy taste like the head on a pint of draft beer.

The Minis are going out to retailers as we speak, though in very limited quantities. Keep an eye out for these little gems!

Friday, October 15, 2010

We're Seasonal...

This was pregnancy check week at Meadow Creek. So how do you know if a cow is pregnant? We use ultrasound, a non-invasive and low stress method that also lets us see the heartbeat. We are happy to announce that we will have 21 first-time mommas next spring, along with our current milkers who will again give birth.

Pregnancy is a big deal on dairy farms; without it cows would not give milk. On both conventional and seasonal dairies, all cows get a 60-day rest, or dry period, before calving. However, on a conventional dairy a certain percentage of the cows are dry at any given time and the rest are at various stages of lactation. This results in milk that is virtually the same year round.

On a seasonal dairy like Meadow Creek, the milk changes with the season. This is due in large part to the fact that all cows are bred in the same short time frame and will all calve within a 60-day time period starting in March. And all are dry at the same time from late December until they calve. In the spring all our cows are in early lactation, giving milk with lower fat and protein, while in the fall they are all in late lactation, giving milk that is high in these milk solids. The result is a seasonally changing cheese, as you Grayson fans are well aware.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

On the Farm

The storms causing havoc up and down the East Coast have brought welcome rain, sighs of relief, and a renewed promise of a full season of cheesemaking at Meadow Creek. Our August 12th availability email talked about how well our pastures were doing to see us to mid-December for milking (and thus cheesemaking), then bam, we were hit with six weeks of no rain. Rick and Jim do grass walks every 7 to 10 days to monitor the growth and, if necessary, adjust the movement of cows from paddock to paddock to give more or less time between grazing the same paddock. Such a long dry spell, our second this year, had us looking at a shorter grazing and cheesemaking season - our cheese is made only when the cows are on grass. Thanks to Rick and Jim's careful management and rains just in time we should be back on schedule, as long as a few days of predicted warm sun come our way now.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Meadow Creek Dairy wins!

The official press release:
Galax, Virginia (September 1, 2010) - Meadow Creek Dairy took two separate awards for their cheeses this year at the 27th Annual American Cheese Society Competition.

Their Appalachian took first place in the brand-new American Originals -- Original Recipe category, while Grayson was awarded third place in the Farmstead Cheeses category. This is Appalachian's second award, and the fourth year running that Grayson has placed in the competition, including an award for Second Best of Show in 2008.

The American Cheese Society is a trade organization representing cheesemakers from all over North America. This year's competition, held in Seattle, Washington, featured a record-breaking 1,462 cheeses from 225 cheesemakers. The Original Recipe category was created this year as a way to recognize cheeses which do not follow an established cheesemaking tradition. It was one of the most hotly contested categories at the competition, with cheeses tying for both second and third place.

“We’re very honored by this award,” says cheesemaker Helen Feete. “We’ve made Appalachian for twelve years now, and over that time we’ve taken elements from several different cheese styles, but we’ve avoided patterning it on one specific cheese.  Our goal has always been to make a cheese that showcases our milk and our mountainous terrain. Being labeled an American Original by this award makes us feel like we’ve reached that goal.”

Meadow Creek Dairy is a seasonal grass dairy located outside Galax, Virginia which specializes in aged raw milk cheeses. The Feete family (Helen, Rick, Kat, and Jim) established their dairy in 1988 and began making cheese in 1998. Besides Grayson and Appalachian they also make an alpine-style cheese called Mountaineer. For more information, visit their website at

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Heat Wave

The East Coast heat wave doesn't want to let up. Here in the mountains we have been fortunate compared to folks in the lowlands. Our temperatures are a good 10 degrees cooler and our grass has been refreshed by the late summer rains - you can almost hear it growing! Our goal at this time of year is to grow enough grass in the next six weeks to carry us through December. This is done by "building cover" - that is by keeping the grass a little higher after each grazing rotation so that we have plenty later in the year when the grass grows more slowly. To help our cows do their part they are moved to a new pasture every 12 hours. Rick is happy to report that so far our grass production is right on target.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Music is in the air... Galax. The area is known for its old time and bluegrass music, but next week's 75th annual Old Time Fiddlers' Convention, billed as the world's oldest and largest fiddlers' convention, will bring thousands of music lovers to camp out, compete, or just sit back and listen to tunes that have been passed down from generation to generation in the Blue Ridge Mountains. If you are in the area come hear some of the best foot stomping banjo, fiddle and guitar sounds around and enjoy some of Galax's other famous specialty - Meadow Creek cheese.