By Lorrie Baumann
Green Dirt Farm was born of Sarah Hoffmann’s desire to give her children the kind of grounded life that her parents provided for her on the various farms to which her family moved as her father’s duty assignments as a pilot for the U.S. Navy took him from place to place. “We moved every two years, but wherever we moved, we lived on a small farm,” says Hoffmann, who is the Proprietor at Green Dirt Farm today. “My dad did the work when he got home from work.”
Even today, Hoffmann’s father, John Hoffmann, though at 83, long since retired from his Naval career, still maintains draft horses. “My dad, we always teased him that he was a closet farmer, but he’s not a closet farmer – he’s a farmer at heart,” Sarah Hoffmann says. “He grew up loving the farm, and he communicated that to his kids.”
Her experience of growing up on various kinds of farms, from simple family subsistence-style farms with vegetable gardens and a few animals to more robust kinds of farming operations, gave her both knowledge of a wide range of farming styles and an enduring desire to raise her own family on a farm even after she grew up and went her own way with a career in medicine. She met her husband while they were in medical school together in San Francisco, pursued her residency in internal medicine while he completed a residency in cardiology as well as a masters degree in public health and then fellowships to prepare for an academic career. When he finished his fellowship, he realized that the family would have to move so he could teach, since universities rarely hire their professors from the ranks of those who’ve trained in their institution. Hoffmann took that move as a chance to exercise her dream of living on a farm so that her children could have the experience of spending time outdoors, of seeing the cycle of life and death, of knowing that hard work can be challenging, but it’s also very rewarding. “I said to him, ‘Here’s the deal, this is what we’re going to do,’ ” she says, “ ‘Target academic medical centers within 30 miles of affordable farmland.’ ”
There weren’t many of those, since major teaching hospitals tend to be located in the heart of a big city. Kansas City, Missouri, had one of the five hospitals that filled the bill. “When we got here, they offered us both fantastic jobs, and when we looked around, we said, ‘Good farmland. This is where we’re coming,’ ” she says. “I had actually never lived in the Midwest.”
They found the farm they’d been seeking in Weston, Missouri, a rural town of about 1,500 people that’s close to Kansas City and started a grass-based sheep dairy with the intention that eventually they’d be a farmstead cheese operation. Hoffmann spent the six years from 2002 to 2008 getting the farm set up and learning how to make cheese, then started making cheese for commercial sale in 2008. It was a role for which her education in chemistry, biology and medicine stood her in good stead, since cheesemaking is largely a matter of chemistry and microbiology, she says.
Of course, commercial cheesemaking isn’t just a matter of chemistry and biology – there’s still the commercial part of it. “We still needed to reach that goal of economic sustainability,” she says. Hoffmann’s not the first to discover that it’s extremely difficult to make a living in the U.S. with sheep milk cheeses, even if the cheeses are really good, even if they’re winning prizes in competitions. There are a variety of reasons for this, ranging from considerations of international trade to the complexities of ovine biology to market forces in the American economy. Her solution to the problem was to form partnerships with nearby Amish dairies who were raising sheep and cows. They agreed both to sell her their milk but also to follow her rules about how they raised their animals. “Those dairies promised to uphold all the same farm practices we think are very important for producing great cheese,” Hoffmann says. Those farm practices include raising the animals on pasture and that they be Animal Welfare Approved by A Greener World. “We think that’s really important because there’s a lot of research that shows that a diverse grass diet will concentrate a lot more flavor compounds in the milk,” Hoffmann says. “We think it’s important to have a third-party come in and validate that our farm practices are both humane and environmentally responsible. … That helps our customers know that we pay particular attention to those details on our farm and that we really care about the health and welfare of our animals.”
While Hoffmann made all her own cheeses in the early days of the operation, Rachel Kleine is now Green Dirt Farm’s Head Cheesemaker. She’s responsible for developing the recipes for the mixed milk cheeses that the creamery makes today in addition to its 100 percent sheep milk cheeses, which include Dirt Lover. the dairy’s flagship cheese, a soft-ripened lactic style cheese with an ash coating that helps control how the rind develops as it ages. Dirt Lover tastes buttery, lemony, and mushroomy, and becomes earthy and beefy with age. It smells of wet dirt, like working in the garden, according to the dairy’s description. It won a third-place award for sheep milk cheeses aged between 31 and 60 days this year at the American Cheese Society’s Judging and Competition.
Green Dirt Farm’s Prairie Tomme won a third-place ACS award for a cheese made in the U.S. in an international style. It’s a rustic, mountain style, hard cheese made with sheeps milk. The curd is cut very small and slowly cooked, resulting in a lower moisture cheese. It is aged at least four months, during which the rind is washed with brine. This creates a beautiful, natural rind with an earthy flavor, according to the creamery’s website.
Aux Arcs, pronounced like Ozark, won a second place ACS award for a blended milk cheese in an international style. It’s a rustic, mountain style, hard cheese made with blended sheep and cow’s milk, made in the summer while the animals are on pasture and aged for at least two months. Aux Arcs is milky and buttery with sweet pineapple notes and hints of flowers. Its rind is evocative of damp earth and mushrooms.
Green Dirt Farm also won a second-place award for Fresh Plain, a fresh rindless sheep milk cheese aged less than 30 days, and a first-place win in the category for sheep milk cheeses aged between 31 and 60 days for Woolly Rind, a bloomy rind aged cheese that’s a classic lactic style cheese that undergoes progressive ripening as it ages. Woolly Rind tastes buttery, tangy, and mushroomy. With age, the cheese gains earthy and beefy qualities. Its aroma frequently evokes thoughts of forest floor, or fresh soil. It is a good option to introduce people to aged sheep’s milk cheese, as it is relatively mild, according to Green Dirt Farm.
Bossa won a second-place award in the American Originals category for cheeses made from sheep milk at the 2017 ACS Competition and Judging, tying with Bleating Heart Cheese’s Fat Bottom Girl. Bossa is a signature cheese for Green Dirt Farm, a washed-rind cheese that’s aged for five weeks before wrapping. It reaches its peak at about eight to nine weeks, when it’s very runny, with a custard-like paste that can be spooned out of the rind onto crusty bread. This is a stinky cheese that tastes meaty, with buttery or nutty notes and a delicate honey-nectar flavor.
Pamela G. Bailey, President and CEO of the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), has announced she will retire later this year following nearly 10 years of leading the organization.
Bailey will remain with GMA and manage the organization as the board of directors conducts a search for her successor, with Leslie Hortum of Spencer Stuart retained to lead the search.
“GMA’s members are dedicated to improving the quality of life for their consumers and they are fortunate to be led by a dedicated board of industry leaders, committed to ensuring the association can help its members continuously improve the health, safety, affordability and sustainability of their products,” Bailey said. “As GMA’s board continues to engage in the reinvention process to build the association of the future to meet the consumer needs of the future, it is best that they do so in concert with their leader of the future. I look forward to continuing to work with the GMA board as they engage in that process to identify that leader.”
“We want to thank Pam for all her hard work during her nearly 10 years at GMA,” said Chris Policinski, Chairman of the GMA board of directors. “Her leadership was valuable during an evolving time in the industry. As the industry evolution continues, GMA’s board is committed to building an association that is the leading voice for a major sector of our nation’s economy and that works collaboratively with industry and consumer partners to address our challenges ahead.”
GMA is the trade organization representing the world’s leading food, beverage and consumer products companies that sustain and enhance the quality of life for hundreds and millions of people in the United States and around the globe.
During Bailey’s tenure, GMA led the industry in supporting modernization of the nation’s food and product safety laws and regulations. This work resulted in passage of the historic Food Safety Modernization Act, reforms to the Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) review process and passage of the Toxic Substances Control Act, which made important improvements to the nation’s chemicals management laws.
Under her leadership, GMA was a vital voice in support of a federal law setting a uniform national standard for required disclosure of food and beverage ingredients from biotechnology. The 2016 passage of this law with broad bipartisan support was recognized as one of the top lobbying victories of the year.
In addition, GMA has worked with the Food Marketing Institute, which represents retailers, on major industry-wide initiatives to ensure consumers have the tools and information they need to make choices for their families. These include SmartLabel®, the innovative digital disclosure tool to give consumers more information than can fit on a label; Facts Up Front, the landmark voluntary front-of-pack nutrition labeling system; and a Product Code Dating initiative to reduce consumer confusion by streamlining more than a dozen different product code dates to just two.
Prior to joining GMA, Bailey led the work of three national trade associations, serving as founding president and CEO of the Healthcare Leadership Council; president and CEO of AdvaMed, the Advanced Medical Technology Association, and president and CEO of the Personal Care Products Council. Earlier in Bailey’s career, she served in the White House for three Presidents.
Rhythm Superfoods is launching its newest product line: organic Carrot Sticks. Available in three flavors: Naked, Sea Salt and Ranch, the dehydrated, organic Carrot Sticks are the first snack of their kind and are as delicious on their own as they are dipped into hummus, guacamole, or Greek yogurt dip.
Carrot Sticks are packed with fiber, potassium and the powerful antioxidant beta carotene (which converts to Vitamin A). The Carrot Sticks are all organic, non-GMO, gluten free, vegan and kosher.
The 1.4-ounce resealable bags will retail for $3.99.