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2005 - Volume #29, Issue #2, Page #08
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"Grass Cheese" Fills Niche Market

The Keith Marshall family of Unionville, Virginia has found a formula for success in branching out from dairy farming to retail sales of their own specialty "grass" cheeses and other unique food items.
  Besides selling at local farmers' markets, they opened "Marshall Farms Corner Shop," a retail store located a mile from their farm. The shop includes a small deli for the daily breakfast/lunch crowd who enjoys their sandwich specials, coffee, chai tea, and fresh baked goods. The Marshalls also sell wine and Christmas gift boxes.
  "Marshall Farms Natural Cheeses" are made entirely from grass-fed dairy cows on their own farm. It gives the cheese a unique taste and texture since, as they say, "Whatever the cows eat comes out in the flavor of the cheese."
  Their cheeses are made by Ashe County Cheese in West Jefferson, North Carolina. The Marshalls say cheese-making is an art and they prefer to concentrate on the other parts of the business.
  "Our job is to provide the best possible milk," Keith Marshall says. "Our cheeses taste better and are more natural than anything in the stores there's a discernable difference."
  The Marshalls only use milk produced when the cows are grazing during peak growing season.
  "In the spring, when the pastures are exploding with growth and nutritional value, our cows are producing the ultimate quality milk, so we collect, store and earmark it for cheese. Depending on the year, this happens anytime from late April to June and then again from late September to early November," Keith Marshall says.
  Several times in the spring and in the fall, the family transports three days worth of milk (36,000 lbs., which makes 4,000 lbs. of cheese) to Ashe County Cheese which is 5 hrs. away.
  "Our cheeses have a smooth, creamy texture," says Marshall. "We currently have eight varieties: cheddar, Monterey jack, tomato basil jack, pepper jack, garlic parsley chive cheddar, bacon chive cheddar, caraway cheddar, and Monterey jack with dill. The selection varies according to what is and isn't selling well."
  Marshall's milking herd ranges from 120 cows in winter, to a peak of 300 in spring and fall. They are rotationally grazed and naturally bred, constituting a mixed heritage of Brown Swiss, Holstein, Jersey and Ayreshire. The cows graze on high energy grasses such as rye, bluegrass, clover and some native fescues.
  "There's not much cheese being made in Virginia," Marshall says, adding that he's proud to produce his own product and market it.
  "It takes a long time to get a business going. Right now, after three years, the cheese division is pretty much self supporting," Marshall says. "Demand is becoming greater and greater each year. Christmas orders are growing annually by three-fold."
  The family produces about 16,000 lbs. of cheese per year and it retails in the $7 to $8 per pound range.
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Keith Marshall, 24109 Constitution Hwy., Unionville, Va. 22567 (ph 540 854-6800; email: marshallfarms@adelphia.net; website: www.marshallfarms.us).
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2005 - Volume #29, Issue #2