ARGYLE David and Liza Porter didn’t set out to buy a farm, but their love of cheesemaking took over.
David Porter, who owns Longview Farm in Argyle with his wife, Liza, told visitors on Saturday’s cheese tour that their cheese business started in their garage in Wilton, in the smallest space the state would allow for a cheese-making facility. After traveling up and down the Hudson to find milk that met their standards, they bought an old farm in Argyle 10 years ago and started a herd of French Alpine dairy goats.
Why goats? “It’s easier to clean up after goats, and we don’t need big machinery,” Porter said.
The Porters get up to eight gallons a day from their 13 milking does. They also buy raw cow’s milk from another local farmer. They turn the milk into small batches of delicious hard and soft cheeses that they sell at the Glens Falls and Saratoga farmer’s markets.
“We take (the milk) from udder to market,” Porter said. “We’re the farmer, manufacturer, retailer and marketer.”
The farm isn’t just about cheese. “Our purpose is to find a way to farm sustainably for generations to come,” Porter said. Longview Farm also raises meat chickens and hogs, all pastured like the goats. The hogs clear brush and weeds from the overgrown fields. The chickens eat insects and parasites that could harm the goats. The chicken droppings fertilize the grass that the goats eat. Only a fraction of the goats’ milk, mostly fat and protein, becomes cheese.
The rest, a fluid called whey, “is a power drink,” Porter said. “It’s full of protein and vitamins and minerals.” The whey goes to the four heritage breed hogs, and “I turn them into bacon,” he said. The Porters buy hay locally and pay the farmer who provides the cow’s milk a premium “so the farmer can make enough to live on.”
Saturday’s first visitors were a busload of senior citizens from Poultney, Vermont, “and it’s been steady ever since,” Porter said. Business at the cheese sales table was brisk. Running the River, a band from the Saratoga farmer’s market, provided live music. Roberta Marstellar, a Chicago resident who learned cheesemaking from the Porters, made appetizers incorporating different goat cheeses. Lant Hill Farm sold their own garlic and potatoes.
A few miles away, Marge Randles gave visitors tours of the cheesemaking room at the Argyle Cheese Farmer. The facility is part of Randles Fairview Farm, which has been in business for more than 150 years.
The Argyle Cheese Farmer takes about a third of the 50 Holsteins’ milk production, Randles said. The Randles family started the cheese enterprise to get more value from the farm, with regular yogurt as one of their first products. About eight years ago, Randles found herself with 10 gallons of yogurt base and not enough retail-size containers for it. At a loss, she contacted a friend who told her to drain the yogurt, whip it, and sell it as Greek yogurt, then a very new product. Now the farm sells 450 gallons of Greek yogurt a week. Their maple Greek yogurt, flavored with maple syrup from a farm just down the road, won first prize for yogurt recently at the New York State Fair.
Eight years ago, their first time on the cheese tour, another farmer sniffed that no one would “spend that much money on cheese,” Randles recalled. He was amazed when the Randles’ sold out.
“If we’d started five years earlier, we probably wouldn’t have made it,” Randles said. The growth of the local food movement has made the difference, she said. The Cheese Farmer is planning a new, 13,000-square-foot facility in the Warren-Washington Industrial Park.
Janet and John Oarberg of Troy were stocking up on yogurt and honey from the coolers and sales tables. They’re regular customers at the Argyle Cheese Farmer, Janet Oarberg said. “We’ll go to more of the farms on the tour, until we’re cheesed out. We love Washington County!”