Coffee with Flo and Dave
A cheesemaker is only as good as his or her milk. Minnesota, which has a significant dairy presence, makes the job of sourcing milk a bit easier. However, once you factor in a desire for organic milk and something local, your field becomes a great deal smaller. As I began putting a business plan together, I found a number of sources listing organic dairies in my area. After a bit of rooting around, and thanks especially to Jean, formerly of Pastureland Co-op, I settled on Cedar Summit Farms in New Prague as my first choice.
Cedar Summit’s proprietors, David and Florence Minar, made the commitment to go organic in 1994. The farm has been in Dave’s family since 1926, and the next generation of Minars are actively involved in the business. Their website, http://www.cedarsummit.com, tells much more of the story.
My first contact was with Mike, Dave and Flo’s son. I caught him by phone the first time I tried, which was fortunate, because the guy is busy. He runs the creamery right alongside the farm. Cedar Summit began their own production facility for milk, cream and ice cream in 2002. They have gained a terrific reputation for quality. Mike was polite, but a little guarded. I got the sense that the best chance I had to do business with them was to meet face-to-face. We arranged a time, and I stopped in the next week. Mike looked like he sounded on the phone: serious and no nonsense. He had a firm handshake, and was obviously proud of the operation as he described it. I told him a bit about my background and plans, and he said he’d discuss the matter with his family. I left the meeting hopeful, but acutely aware that I’d better have a plan B, and C for that matter.
I kept in touch via email, and left Mike a few messages. I didn’t want to appear pushy, but I did want to let him know Cedar Summit was my first choice, and that I would be promoting their farm by including the milk source on all our labels. A bit later, I received a more encouraging email. Ultimately, Mike gave me his folks’ number, and I called Dave to arrange a meeting. We had a brief but pleasant conversation, and set a date a few days before New Years.
When I arrived at the house, Flo met me at the door, with Dave right behind. I brought a gift, a nice bottle of Champagne to ring in 2009. I was a bit nervous as I entered their home. They offered me a cup of coffee and we sat at their kitchen table. We talked a bit about my plans, and they were obviously curious as to why I’d chosen them. I told them that, from everything I could gather, they were the best organic dairy in South Central Minnesota (one could argue the best in the State), and that without the best milk, you can’t make the best cheese.
I love coffee; more specifically, I love coffee with lots of milk. After a few minutes of small talk, Dave poured the coffee and added a generous dollop of 2% Cedar Summit milk at my behest. It was delicious and soothing; just the right thing to ease my nerves. We continued our discussion, and in the end, had an informal agreement to work together.
Driving away, I felt a strong sense of encouragement about my project. My “quest” to make great cheese had taken a big leap forward.