Yellow Springs Farm in Chester Springs, sits just a few miles from our Kimberton store. The road to the farm winds down into a valley where old meets new. Stone barns, farmhouses and modern developments dot the hillside, all well integrated into the landscape. As we pull into the driveway, we see several goats enjoying breakfast in the pasture and Catherine Renzi waving, welcoming us to the farm.
For over a century, Yellow Springs Farm was one the largest dairy farms in the Philadelphia area, providing dairy products made from cow’s milk to all of Chester County. When Al and Catherine Renzi purchased the farm in 2001, they made sure that the land would stay true to its heritage by securing an easement with French and Pickering Conservation Trust to protect it from development, and to ensure that future generations will be able to enjoy it. The Renzi’s have made it their priority to “connect sustainable landscapes to sustainable food systems,” and it comes through in the way that they have transformed the farm while remaining loyal to its roots. They paid homage to the history of the farm by continuing to produce dairy products made from the nutrient rich milk of their herd of 60+ Nubian goats. They have also chosen to honor the land by starting a native plant nursery, raising plants that are indigenous to the area to help to support the natural ecosystem.
After speaking with us about the lineage of the farm, Catherine introduced us to Al, who guided us through the dairy facility to teach us about the craft of making cheese. He described the process from start to finish—being clear on the challenges and successes that come along with the job. From the aging process, to the ingredients used, every cheese is a product of the farm’s surroundings. The “cave,” where the cheese is stored to age, is made from local fieldstone, which impacts humidity of the room, ultimately playing a role in the taste and texture of the matured cheese. Local honey, black walnuts, raspberries and herbs grown on the farm are also routinely incorporated into their cheeses—even the wood that the cheese sits on to mature is sourced from local trees.
It’s amazing what a good partnership can create; Catherine has an educational background in horticulture and Al is a skilled microbiologist who incorporates scientific method into his work on the farm, using his knowledge to create 25 distinct flavors of artisan cheese. Each plays their own role, while depending on each other to make the process seamless. “Science is behind good farming,” explains Catherine as she describes the lab in their home that helps to keep the herd healthy and their product pathogen free. Al notes that the cheese is only as good as the milk which can only come from happy goats, which the lucky goats at Yellow Springs Farm just happen to be.
“We all have a job to do,” Catherine notes, as she talks about her herd like a group of co-workers and explains how each goat has a unique personality. Every goat is treated like an individual with a personalized name to match. The importance of staying true to the history of the farm resonates in every process of the small operation. They purchase local grass in the winter, and milk only 6 goats at a time in a 160 year-old barn that is also home to their dairy facility and cheese cave. “I like to call it our 160 year aged cheese,” quips Al when talking about the history of their cheese cave and how it contributes to the unique mold structure that makes their flagship cheese, Fieldstone, truly delectable.
Our stores carry a variety of products from Yellow Springs Farm including artisanal cheese, caramel sauce and goat yogurt. To learn more about Yellow Springs Farm, visit their website.