LOVETTESVILLE, VA — When Molly Kroiz and her husband Sam moved to his family farm in Loudon County, it was clear what they were going to do.
“I wanted to make cheese,” Molly said, who had previously done so on a home-scale basis.
This would be different, though: a commercial-scale business on a farm for a couple who had never farmed before.
The land has been in Sam’s family for centuries—the couple’s one-and-a-half-year-old daughter Mabel is the ninth generation of the family to live on the farm—but it had been a couple generations since the family actively farmed it. In the intervening years the land had mainly been leased.
The couple decided to start a herd of goats because they figured it might be easier to handle goats than cattle, and because they loved goat cheese.
Today the operation is known as Georges Mill Farm (Sam’s ancestors were named Georges) and includes a flock of about 26 milking does as well as Great Pyrenees guard dogs. With the size of their current parlor and creamery, their limit would be about 30 milking does. Sam is the goatherd, Molly the cheesemaker.
“Goats have a lot of personality,” Sam said. “Sometimes too much personality.”
Molly has no regrets about becoming a fromagère. “I love it,” she said. “There’s a lot of science involved, but also a lot of art.”
The farm, now in its fourth year of production, milks 2x. They operate seasonally, from March to December. Molly makes cheese every other day.
Sam built the creamery in part of a stone-sided barn that dates to the late 1860’s. The goats enter the milking parlor up a set of stairs, and then step onto an elevated milking platform, where Molly milks the does with two bucket-milkers.
Georges Mill has taken its place in Loudon County’s burgeoning local foods movement. Having been raised in New England, and lived in the Pacific Northwest, Molly saw how farmstead businesses could thrive within a healthy local food economy.
“We have a really great community of young farmers here,” Molly said. Some of them (and others in the community) meet at Georges Mill for monthly barn dances, something the Kroizes started this year.
Before they reassess whether they want to invest in larger equipment and a larger creamery, the Kroizes are now focused on improving their current operations, including managing the grazing aspect of their dairy.
The goats do have access to hay and grain, but the goal, Molly said, “is to raise healthy, hardy goats that do well on pasture.”
“Having goats on pasture has been a learning curve,” Sam said.
As a cheesemaker, Molly likes how using pasture for forage “makes for more interesting cheese. It gives cheese more flavor, more complexity and depth, more of a sense of place.”
Georges Mill sells its cheese at an honor store on the farm, at two local farmers’ markets, and to a handful of local restaurants and stores.
Molly, who in the initial years of farm’s operation did “a lot of experimenting,” makes mainly soft cheeses. She makes feta and chèvre, which is tangy in its aroma and initial flavor, and has a full, creamy richness that lingers in the mouth. She also makes three bloomy rind cheeses, which she describes as a “very lactic style of traditional French goat cheese, with a very delicate curd.”
The bloomy rind cheeses are typically sold after aging for two weeks. As they age, they do change in texture and flavor. Because of their dynamic, delicate qualities, they aren’t readily available in larger commercial markets, which buyers in the local food economy appreciate.
The farm’s classic bloomy rind cheese is called Catoctin. It combines a fresh milky quality with a deep earthy flavor, and gets softer as it ages. “It’s so flavorful,” Sam said. Cavalry Camp Ash incorporates vegetable ash, and Picnic Woods is rolled in dried herbs.
Molly also makes a Tomme, aged about five months. One of her goals is to experiment more with aged, hard cheeses.
It’s clear that Molly has found her vocation. “I like making cheese,” she said. “There’s something about it that that really captures me,” in particular the aged cheeses. “I love watching them progress. It’s really rewarding to make something that people enjoy.”