Spotlight on Orb Weaver Farm
We’re casting our Spotlight on a farm that has been a part of our Co-op family since 1981 – Orb Weaver Farm. While we shed some light on this local 100-acre gem this week, member-owners can enjoy 20% off their full line of glorious cheeses and organic produce. Read on to learn more about Orb Weaver Farm, the fabulous female farmers responsible for it, and the wonderful bounty of products they bring to our Co-op:
The Farm –
Orb Weaver Farm sits on one hundred acres in the Champlain Valley, the rocky top of Camel’s Hump Mountain visible towards the east. Patchwork fields bordered by hedgerows, dotted with Jersey cows, bales of hay waiting to be picked up, a green tractor tilling the earth. Straight garden rows planted with lettuce, swiss chard, tomatoes, peppers, flowers. Our 200-year-old farmhouse, and across the yard the weathered barn, the cheese cave carved into a hillside, fronted by huge stone slabs. The seasons dictate our chores for the day, but the rhythm of the seasons is blissfully the same, year after year, as it has always been for those who work the land. The life of a farmer is both simple and vastly complex, dependent not only on planning and muscle but also on what falls from the sky and what pushes up from the earth. This is Orb Weaver Farm, the farm we have built with our hands for over thirty years, our small piece of the beautiful Vermont earth.
We’ve been practicing sustainable farming since we began. We cultivate our organic gardens and sell the produce to local restaurants and markets. We compost all our culled vegetables, cow manure, and whey (a byproduct of making cheese) and eventually return their nutrients to the gardens and pastures.
The Farmers –
Orb Weaver Farm was founded in 1981 by Marjorie Susman and Marian Pollack. They are the driving force behind the farm, with help from farmhand extraordinaire, Lauren Slayton.
At the Co-op, you’ll find a gorgeous array of organic produce from Orb Weaver, including plum tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, eggplant, and big, beautiful shallots, each in their own season. You’ll also find two of our most popular cheeses: Farmhouse and Cave-Aged. Here’s what Marjorie & Marian have to say about these delicious cheeses and the cows that make it possible:
Farmhouse Cheese –
When farmers use milk exclusively from their own cows to make cheese, it’s called “farmhouse cheese.” That’s what we’ ve been doing at Orb Weaver Farm since 1982. We milk our Jersey cows to make rich, raw milk cheese with a slightly tangy, full-bodied flavor. More moist than cheddar, our Farmhouse Cheese has a natural buttery color and smooth, creamy texture. It is delicious with wine, melts beautifully to complement any recipe, brings grilled cheese sandwiches to new heights, and distinctively tops nachos and pizza. Our two-pound waxed and cave aged wheels also make elegant gifts that are easy to mail.
Cave-Aged Cheese –
In 2001, we took a new step into an age-old tradition and began making cave-aged cheese. Using stones from neighboring Panton, VT, we built a cave in a small hillside on our farm to replicate as closely as possible the aging process used for centuries before refrigeration. Cave conditions are warmer and more humid than those for our standard farmhouse cheese, and the aging cycle is longer – up to a year for a 10-pound wheel. We don’t wax cave-aged cheese, but instead turn and brush the wheels every other day for several months, creating a natural rind. The end result is heaven for cheese lovers: a robust, complex array of nutty, earthy flavors and a firm, slightly drier texture that makes our cave-aged cheese a true delicacy. Cave-aged cheese may require more time and TLC, but we think you’ll agree the results are more than worth it.
We make our cheeses simply, in the European tradition. We stir, form, and date-stamp each wheel by hand – we don’t use mechanical stirrers or hydraulic presses. Our wheels age from 6 to 12 months and, since we do everything ourselves, quantities are limited. We make cheese from November through May. We give our cows, and ourselves, a break every summer while we tend our organic gardens.
The Herd –
In our experience, Jerseys give the highest quality milk for cheesemaking, with more butterfat, protein, and vitamins than milk from other breeds. Because we care for our own Jerseys, we know we’re always using the purest, most nutritious milk possible for fine-quality farmhouse and cave-aged cheeses.
We feed our cows sweet-tasting, sweet-smelling grain and organic hay to produce the most savory milk. That’s one of the reasons we won an award for the best-tasting milk in Vermont. For cheese, we milk a small family of seven Jerseys. Happy cows make the best milk, and so our Jerseys enjoy the sounds of classical music whenever they’re not rotationally grazing 30 acres of clover pasture.
We love our farm in Vermont’s beautiful Champlain Valley. During an era when family farms are quickly disappearing, we feel blessed that our small farm is thriving.