Spotlight on Blue Ledge Farm
We’re thrilled to shine our Member Deals Spotlight on a local cheese-making family that produces incredible award-winning cow and goat’s milk cheeses, while also demonstrating a deep commitment to environmental stewardship — Blue Ledge Farm! From June 24th – 30th, member-owners can enjoy a 20% discount on all of Blue Ledge Farm’s delicious cheeses! Read on to learn more about Blue Ledge Farm and the family that brings it to life:
Blue Ledge Farm of Salisbury, VT is a first-generation, family-owned and operated, Animal Welfare Approved dairy and cheese-making operation established in 2000 by Hannah Sessions and Greg Bernhardt. Their mission is to create a high-quality product built on the cornerstones of respect for consumers, land, and animals as well as their local community.
The farm began as a dream hatched by Hannah and Greg more than 20 years ago when they met in Florence, Italy while traveling throughout Europe to learn more about the arts and culture of the region. Upon returning home, the couple began transforming a retired dairy farm back into production with their Alpine and LaMancha dairy goats. They started with just four goats, but have grown and expanded over the years, now milking 125 goats twice daily and producing fourteen types of cheese, from very fresh to semi-aged bloomy rind cheeses, to firmer aged cheeses.
They also launched a partnership with neighboring MoSe Farm to produce a line of cow’s milk cheeses. Seth and Monika at MoSe Farm milk Ayrshire cows, a breed known for having superior milk for cheese-making. Twice a week Blue Ledge Farm receives a fresh milk delivery from MoSe Farm which is immediately processed into smooth, buttery Camembrie; creamy, yet crumbly Middlebury Blue; apple cider-washed Richville; or their newest cheese, a gouda-style Moosalamoo. They also blend the cow’s milk with their goat’s milk to make an aged cheese known as Riley’s 2×4.
In keeping with their mission, sustainable farming practices are a top priority at Blue Ledge Farm. They compost their bed-pack manure and apply it to their fields, thereby creating a closed-loop cycle from grass to goat and back to grass. The goats graze and forage throughout most of the year, which is healthy for the goats, healthy for the consumer, and beneficial to the environment. In 2008 they built an underground aging facility, or “cave”, allowing them to store cheese underground in a naturally cool and moist environment while using considerably less energy to keep the temperature and humidity at desirable levels. They have partnered with Efficiency Vermont on several projects over the years, from a variable-speed efficient milking machine, to more efficient cooling compressors, to newer fluorescent light bulbs, all in an effort to reduce environmental impact. At the heart of their operation is a clean-burning EPA-Approved bio-mass furnace, allowing them to heat their home, cheese-house, and barn, as well as all of the hot water used in the cheese plant, with locally-produced wood pellets! And In 2015 they covered the south-facing roof of their barn with solar panels which provide nearly half of the farm’s electricity usage all summer long!
Hannah and Greg made some incredibly nimble moves over the past year to pivot their business model in response to the challenges of the global pandemic, so much so that they caught the attention of the local news! With the mandatory closure of restaurants and institutions across the state, sales for Vermont’s specialty cheese producers dropped 50-70% almost overnight. As Hannah shared in a blog post last May, “we can’t furlough the goats or the cows and bring them back in a month! It’s spring, and the milk is flowing. If we are to survive we need to adapt.” The shift entailed adopting a direct-to-consumer model, and they found some very creative ways to get their cheeses directly to you, including the addition of a mini-fridge to their Salisbury farmstand where you can get farm-fresh cheeses all summer long! Those who aren’t lucky enough to live close by can order online or by phone and have their cheese shipped.
Hannah adds that “we are so very grateful for the support of family, friends, and fellow cheese lovers from near and far who have bolstered our spirits and emptied our cheese supply throughout this challenge! We realize that we absolutely love selling direct to folks! We have worked on ways to create those “magical moments” so during these times of isolation folks can receive a carefully packed cheese package straight from our farm and feel our appreciation. The feedback we have received has kept us going.”