Long before Jake was aware of concepts like “local food,” “small family farms” and “farm-to-fork.” he was eating Monterey Chevre. It could almost always be found in his family's fridge, both classic plain and garlic & chive varieties. When Jake recounts his journey to butcher and local food advocate, he remembers fondly influential visits to see Monterey Chevre made at family friend Susan Sellew's goat farm, Rawson Brook Farm. Jake, his brothers and Susan's cousin, their "other mother" Scottie Mills, would often stop by to watch the cheese making process and play with the kids - goat kids, that is! - and bring home a few tubs.
So, of course, we couldn't wait to write a field trip post about Rawson Brook Farm, Monterey Chevre, and Susan. We visited on a typical Berkshire autumn day- crisp air, sharp light, heavy gray clouds, exploding orange red and yellow foliage- aligning our arrival with the 5 o'clock milking shift. When we walked in to the milking room, which also houses the farm store, one of Susan's 6 employees, Craig, was starting to milk the farm's 40 goats. Her young nieces were running around, helping for the afternoon - a treat after finishing their homework.
As Susan said to us “One of the things about the Slow Food Movement is that (in my opinion) it doesn't speak at all to the life of the dairy farmer....or maybe any farmer who has to seek out a living, pay for health insurance and college. There is absolutely nothing slow about my life... it's 12-14 hrs a day, 7 days a week with not a whole lot of time for preparing food if you don't happen to have a homemaker in the mix...” The goats get milked twice a day, a process that takes about three hours. Every other day they make chevre with the collected pasteurized goats' milk, rennet, and any flavorings added for that batch. From 1000 pounds of milk, Susan can get about 150 pounds of cheese.
Susan has been making her chevre for 28 years now, and while she says goats' milk cheese was a tough sell at first, Monterey Chevre has become a staple of the South County food scene. So much so, in fact, that Susan was featured in the New York Times last August, headlining for the historic local food culture in the Berkshires.
While it's sold and served all over South County, Rawson Brook Farm chevre is difficult to get outside of the Berkshires- a result of Susan's (awesome) policy to never saying no to a local customer, which often wipes her out. But if you can get your hands on it, stock up (you can find it at Zabars or at the Park Slope Co-Op)! It goes great with bread or crackers, makes a wonderful cheese souffle, and is perfect for take-em-out-put-em-back-in potatoes.