Located in the rural heart of Chester County, The Farm at Doe Run was purchased in 2008 by Pennsylvania native Richard Hayne, founder of Urban Outfitters. What began as a hobby farm quickly grew into a serious operation, renowned for producing some of the region’s best cheeses. The Farm at Doe Run takes great pride not just in their award-winning cheese, but in being careful and attentive stewards of the land. We recently spoke with our friends at Doe Run about the philosophy that fuels their farming practices, their commitment to community partnerships, the people behind their mouthwatering product, and their plans for the future:
The Farm at Doe Run was founded with a commitment to simple & sustainable farming practices. Can you tell us a bit more about how sustainability is practiced in your daily operations at Doe Run?
The whey by-product from our daily cheese-making is collected and spread back on our fields in a deliberate manner, in order to help return vital nutrients to the soil. We also raise a handful of heritage pigs who are happy to consume the whey, along with any cheese curds that remain at the end of the day.
Since our farm is in the middle of beautiful mushroom country, we also have farmer friends who share their rich mushroom compost with us. Our herdsmen and herdswoman spread the mushroom compost over our pastures to provide an enriched local additive to our soil.
Sustainability is also achieved in maintaining strong root structures around our waterways that provide optimal filtration. We’ve made a commitment to plant approximately 1,000 trees each year on the banks of our streams to help bring back the Brook Trout, a native fish that only thrives in cooler, pollution-free waterways. The trees we plant provide the necessary shade to create cooler water temperatures, while their established root systems filter out pollution from the surrounding roadways and other sources along the creek. We are happy to announce that last year brought the first sightings of Brook Trout reproducing and thriving in the surrounding waterways. The Farm at Doe Run is thrilled to play a role in restoring this native species, which is integral in keeping our entire local ecosystem thriving.
In that same vein- can you share how your partnership with Stroud Water Research Center began? Do you anticipate forming similar partnerships in the future with similar organizations and causes?
We love the idea that Stroud Water Research Center is located right here in our own backyard and has long been recognized nationally and internationally for their freshwater research, education, and watershed restoration programs that help effect water quality and availability around the world. Their dedication to our local water system is remarkable, providing necessary research and programs to ensure the future of clean healthy water, our ecosystem, and farming. Just a ten minute drive from the farm, the Research Center provides educational programs about stream-side reforestation, riparian forest buffers, and their Leaf Pack Network® for students and tour groups. Clean healthy water is essential to healthy communities, and we are honored to be working to help repair streams in our area with the help of the highly skilled scientists at Stroud. Our support for local environmental organizations is just one way in which we are committed to building a healthier landscape for us all.
How did cheesemakers Samuel Kennedy and Matthew Hettlinger come to work for Doe Run? What unique backgrounds or knowledge do they bring to your operation?
Because our cheesemakers come from different states and diverse backgrounds, our team’s knowledge and experience has depth & breadth that results in a unique & creative line of cheeses. Matt Hettlinger joined the farm in the summer of 2012, bringing with him a degree in Food Science from Ohio State and a working knowledge of cheesemaking from a previous job at Canal Junction in Ohio. Samuel Kennedy joined the farm and creamery in January 2014 with an education from The Culinary Institute of America, as well as a certificate in artisan cheesemaking from the University of Vermont (VIAC). His working knowledge of cheesemaking was cultivated over 5 years of employment at Cherry Grove Farm. Both Matt & Samuel share a passion for artisan cheesemaking, a craft that was once lost, but is now growing and evolving in the United States. Everyone on staff at Doe Run is proud to provide award-winning cheeses to families, retailers and restaurants in Chester County and beyond.
What sets The Farm at Doe Run apart from other local cheesemakers?
We are honored to participate, alongside other local farms and cheesemakers, in the rich heritage of dairy farming here in the great state of Pennsylvania. What makes our farm different is that all three milking herds reside right here on our land, providing us with the milk we use to produce our fresh, seasonal, mixed milk cheeses. We are a grass-fed operation with herds that graze 350 acres of land in beautiful Southern Chester County. We birth our sheep and goat herds in the spring and their milk is used alongside our cow’s milk throughout the summer months and into the early autumn season, allowing us to bring customers new and innovative cheese options, that age in our caves for approximately 6-8 months. We are driven by a dual commitment to quality and creativity, which means we’re always working towards a new Creamery Collection Batch for our customers to enjoy!
How has your cheese production evolved over the course of the past 6 years? What is your proudest accomplishment in that time?
Our cheeses have evolved into world-class, award winning delicacies due to our beautiful land, amazing animals and the hard work and dedication of our herdsmen and two talented cheesemakers. Over the last 6-7 years of production the farm has developed unique recipes and worked to refine these recipes through a combination of education and experience.
Two of our proudest moments have taken place within the past year. At the 2016 American Cheese Society Awards our St. Malachi Reserve placed first in the farmstead category and went on to place second in Best of Show. (This was out of 1,843 cheeses entered from the US, Mexico and Canada!) While we were unable to accept the award in person, we were completely overjoyed to receive this distinction!
Our second proud moment took place in November 2016, while attending the World Cheese Awards in San Sebastian, Spain. There we received two gold medals for our flagship cheeses: St. Malachi Reserves and our 8 month old Seven Sisters. This was a cherished moment, and one we were eager to share with the rest of the farm upon our return. To say that we are grateful for the experiences and excitement of 2016 would be an understatement.
The accomplishments of 2016 further fueled our passion for this year’s recipe development and cheese production.
What plans does Doe Run have for future growth, further expansion or new undertakings?
There is always something new and fun developing in our creamery. We’ve recently hired a new teammate who will begin learning the art of cheesemaking directly from Matt & Samuel. Our goal is to assist in nurturing a new generation of cheesemaking professionals in our state and industry. We are also freshly inspired by the herd of Normandy cows that joined our original herd of Jersey cows this year. The potential now exists for Matt and Sam to create traditional Normandy cheeses.
We invite your customers to follow us on Instagram for ongoing updates on fun happenings around the farm. Thank you to Kimberton Whole Foods for carrying our cheeses and for supporting so many local farmers by bringing their products to market!