T;; ;;;;;;; ;;;;;;;;;;; ;; southern Minnesota is do;ed with farms and creameries, and
some of the best cheese in the region
emerges from small independent makers
working amid the area’s gentle hills and
broad plains. Food lovers have a number
of places to visit—and creations to
taste—throughout the region.
The story behind the sheep’s milk cheese
of Shepherd’s Way Farm in Nerstrand,
a 15-minute drive from both Northfield
and Faribault, is as inspiring as the cheese
is delicious. The Read family (wife Jodi
makes the cheese while husband Steven
tends to the flock) fought to rebuild their
farm a;er a devastating fire in 2005,
becoming one of the state’s star creameries
a;er years of painstaking work. That
e;ort was capped by a successful 2015
Kickstarter campaign that raised more
than $60,000 to build more barns.
The farm o;en hosts classes and other
events, and Shepherd’s Way cheese is
available throughout the state. Look for
Big Woods Blue, a lovely balance between
sharp and creamy flavors that makes it a
powerhouse on the plate.
Dancing Winds Farm in nearby
Kenyon has been in operation for more
than 25 years, producing goat cheeses
and o;ering visitors the opportunity to
stay overnight in a private guesthouse.
Farm guests can feast upon fresh eggs,
jams and cheese, participate in farm
activities, and even (by arrangement)
observe cheesemaking demonstrations.
The cu;ing edge of Minnesota’s
cheese scene may be Alemar Cheese
of Mankato. The so;, European-style
cheeses made by the small company’s
cheesemakers include nationally known
Bent River, a Camembert-style cheese
with all the full, earthy flavor of its
counterpart from across the ocean.
Alemar’s cheese is available all over the
state (and the country), including at
various co-ops and cheese shops in the
Twin Cities, as well as the outstanding
ZZest Culinary Market in Rochester.
Prairie Hollow Farm, 30 minutes
northeast of Rochester, produces a
cornucopia of food, including cheese,
bread made from Kulm wheat that is
grown on the farm, grass-fed beef, pork
and vegetables. Find its o;erings at a
number of places, including the farm
itself and at the Rochester Farmers
Market. Tours, which include samples,
are $25 per person, with family and
group rates available.
No visit to southern Minnesota would
be complete without a taste of some of
the bold blue or mellow Gouda and baby
Swiss cheeses made at the venerable
Caves of Faribault. The eponymous
caves, which provide an ancient and
useful version of refrigerated climate
control, have been a site for producing
beer or cheese on and o; since the 1850s.
While you can’t tour the 29,000-square-
foot sandstone chambers that serve as
the company’s cheese-aging rooms —
too many visitors would compromise the
environment—you can stop for lunch
at The Cheese Cave, a sandwich joint
and cheese shop, just down the street.
Southern Minnesota is a mecca for cheesemaking. | JAMES NORTON
SHEPHERD’S WAY FARM, NERSTRAND