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Meet your milk at Cherry Valley Dairy Community Day

The Woodinville Weekly of Woodinville, Washington

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It's early morning in late April in Duvall. At the edge of town, a little dairy farm is in full swing. Baby cows are being born almost every day, and the calf barn is full of curious brown faces, mooing softly for more milk.

Fourteen-year-old Rick Heslinga and his mom stop by on the way to school. One of his cows is pregnant, and he wanted to see if she had her baby in the night. (She hadn't.) Across from the calf barn the cheese makers are setting up for the day, getting ready to make butter, cheese, buttermilk, ricotta and almost anything else that can be made out of milk.

This weekend, on May 9, you can watch it all happen at Community Day at Cherry Valley Dairy from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. For that day, the farm will be open to the public. You can tour the farm, try some cheese see the calves and the cows and meet the farmers and cheese makers.

"This is a great way [for people] to see exactly where their food comes from," said Anne Becker, assistant cheese maker at Cherry Valley Dairy. "And shake the hand of the farmer."

Rick will be there with his 4-H club, selling raffle tickets.

"It think it's really important that people know where their milk comes from," he said Rick got that experience about four years ago, when he first went to Cherry Valley.

"I walked down to the dairy and was handed a pitchfork, and started doing it," he said. He's been here ever since.

"I'm always there almost every day, as much as I can be," he said. That means getting up at 5 a.m. so he can help with the milking.

Cherry Valley's cows are purebred Jerseys. Jerseys make milk that is high in butterfat, making it yellower.

Cherry Valley's butter is a rich golden color, much more colorful than the butter you can buy in the grocery store. Becker said it's better for you, too.

The cows at Cherry Valley live in the pasture in the warm months, and are fed grass through the rainy months. Becker said the cows make less milk on grass than they do on grain, but it's richer, tastier and more nutrient dense. It's also more natural for the cows.

"Pasturing the cows is definitely a more humane approach," Becker said. They can roam the nearly 120 acres of the farm, and form a herd like they would do naturally.

"We're just doing very common sense practices that allow the cows to be cows," Becker said.

It has been this way for about years, when the dairy was bought by Gretchen Garth, who wanted to make the farm as sustainable as possible. That meant the farm which once held around 200 cows, now just has around 50. The farm is also now certified salmon-safe.

Garth also owns 21 Acres in Woodinville, which is one of the places Cherry Valley's dairy products are sold. They're also sold at farmers markets, and starting this month, you can find Cherry Valley cream in the ice cream at cheese maker Kurt Timmermeister's new shop on Capitol Hill, Kurt Farm Shop. One of the flavors will be "Jersey;" it has no flavorings, to let the natural milk flavor come through.

The flavor of the milk comes from the cows, but it's also inextricably connected to the Snoqualmie Valley. The streams, the salmon, the fog and the sunshine all give the grass its special flavor. The cows eat the grass and their milk is infused with taste of the valley, Becker said. "I could make this cheese on Vashon and it would taste totally different."

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Original Publication Date: May 4, 2015

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