by Sally Colby
Lorin Hosteter’s family has been dairying for years — as far back as anyone in his family can remember. Although Lorin wanted to continue in the dairy business, he decided to take a different approach.
“In 2009, I was working on the dairy and had to decide what to do,” said Lorin. “I really liked working with my dad here, but at that point, milk prices were bad and the farm couldn’t support two families. My family has been interested in making and selling a product from the farm for quite a while, and producing cheese was a way we could add value to our product and support more people on the farm.”
The name of the Rock Stream, NY farm is unique. “Our family speaks Pennsylvania Dutch, and ‘Shtay’ is Pennsylvania Dutch for rock,” Lorin explained. “At the time I was trying to come up with a farm name, I was reading a book and learned that stream is called a ‘burne’. We put the two together and that’s how we came up with the name Shtayburne Farm.”
Lorin discussed the idea of developing an on-farm creamery with his parents Mark and Mary Ellen, then started to research and visit cheese makers. One cheese maker offered to teach Lorin how to make cheese, so Lorin worked with him for several weeks to learn the process. After mastering the basics of cheese making, Lorin and his wife Alicia established an on-farm creamery that uses the milk produced by the cows on the family dairy farm.
For the first few months, Lorin and Alicia made cheese curd and cheddar, then added Monterey Jack. “We didn’t have the selection of flavors that we have now,” said Lorin. “We’ve expanded our selection over the years.”
The creamery uses about 4,000 pounds of milk each week for cheese production.
Mark’s responsibility is herd management, including maintaining well-developed cows suited for high-quality milk production. The 65-head herd, which includes mostly registered Holsteins along with some registered Brown Swiss, are housed in a modern tie-stall barn built in 2004.
The creamery, which was built in 2010, is where Lorin spends most of his time. He says cheese making is mostly a matter of learning by doing along with reading and attending seminars. “I did a lot of reading and got the basics down,” he said. “It takes practice. It’s really helpful to find someone to work alongside and ask questions.”
As Lorin worked with his mentor and planned his creamery, he learned where to obtain equipment and how to work with regulatory agencies. “My mentor started making cheese in 1984, so he gave me a lot of pointers,” said Lorin.” I laid out my processing facility pretty close to what he did. People can get scared by the state’s Department of Agriculture and Markets, but I’ve found that they’re really nice to work with if you’re willing to work with them.” Lorin says the department visits the farm monthly to take cheese samples, and conduct a general inspection every three months.
In addition to learning on his own, Lorin is currently taking a Cornell University certificate program on cheese making. “We start off with the basics and work toward their advanced cheese making course,” he said. “I started last year and hope to finish it up this year. I also went to the American Cheese Society Conference for the first time last year, and hope to make that a yearly trip.”
Lorin finds that the most challenging part of making cheese is marketing, so having a distributer and cheese trail is helpful. “I prefer to make cheese,” said Lorin. “It’s nice for me that my parents run the dairy and I can concentrate on making cheese. For someone who wants to get into it, I’d suggest that they have someone in charge of the cows and someone else to run the creamery.”
So that he can concentrate on his strong points, Lorin sells cheese through a distributer. A lot of the cheese goes to Finger Lakes wineries, while the rest is sold at small grocery stores, farm markets and a cheese shop in Rochester. “We sell a lot of cheese curds to restaurants and food trucks,” said Lorin. “One of the food trucks sells poutine, so they go through a lot of cheese curds.” Lorin says Shtayburne Farm’s distributor was instrumental in establishing the Finger Lakes Cheese Trail. “He stopped in at the farm even before we had the creamery up and running,” said Lorin. “He was ready to pick up our product soon after we started.”
Today, Shtayburne Farm offers a variety of flavored cheese curds, including buffalo wing, tomato basil, roasted garlic, butter garlic, and cracked pepper and mushroom. Cheddar styles include mild and sharp cheddars, jalapeno jack, horseradish cheddar, chili pepper cheddar, blueberry jack, Italian herb jack, peppercorn jack and smoked bacon cheddar. The family also sells maple syrup produced on the farm and a selection of gift baskets.
In 2011, Lorin was looking for an open house idea to help promote the farm. He approached the Finger Lakes Cheese Trail and asked if they’d be interested in visiting Shtayburne Farm for a day. “It’s almost impossible to visit all of the farms on the cheese trail on one day,” said Lorin. “My idea was to bring everyone to one location. That way, people could come to one farm and not have to travel. The cheese trail promoted it, and it has become the Finger Lakes Cheese Festival. The first year it was at Shtayburne Farm. We’ve had good success with the festival — it’s the last weekend in July.”
For more information about Shtayburne Farm, visit their website at fingerlakesdairyfarm.com .
by Sally Colby