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Cheese-Makers Started With A 10-Cow Dairy Herd
JP and Rebecca Oravets started their dairy operation with just 10 cows, but they made a good living thanks to a solid business plan and their passion for making cheese.
“When we bought our farm, we looked at how we could make a living here,” says Rebecca. “Raw milk cheese was the most difficult to produce with the most investment and the greatest learning curve. However, it also had the best financial return.”
The first year was spent redoing the barn and building a cheese house by themselves. That included pouring concrete one bag of mix at a time. They also needed cheesemaking equipment. Some was purchased second hand online and from restaurant supply companies. Most of it was homemade by Rebecca and JP, who is a welder, blacksmith and farrier by training.
“JP made the knives for cutting the cheese curd as well as the cheese presses,” says Rebecca. “He designed the cheesemaking vat, which holds 1,200 lbs. It was built at Midwest Fabrications, a local metal fabricator.”
The young couple already had a family cow, an Ayrshire, and liked the taste of the milk. The protein/fat balance provided the texture and taste they wanted in their cheese. As they prepared to start production, they added 9 more Ayrshires to the herd. During the preparation period Rebecca did a lot of reading and practiced making aged cheese.
One of the big challenges was the lack of income for the first year after production started. Once the cheese had aged for the full year, marketing began. The Oravets were soon planting and harvesting forage, pasturing and managing the herd, hauling manure, milking and making cheese and selling it.
Buyers included customers at local farmers markets and several restaurants and stores in nearby Cleveland, Ohio. They also started supplying a winery in Richfield, Ohio. Soon they were making and marketing as many as 10 different cheeses, including Gouda, Cheddar and Alpine types aged from several months, in the case of Gouda, to 12 mos. for Cheddar. Extra sharp versions were aged as much as 18 mos. to 24 mos.
“The nice thing about aged cheese is that it’s okay if it doesn’t sell right away,” says Rebecca.
As commercial demand built, it was soon outstripping the milk supply. At the same time, the Oravets recognized that after 3 years of farming, making cheese, and marketing, they were burning out.
This past summer they made a major change, selling the herd and sourcing their milk supply from a 20-cow dairy in the area.
“We miss the cows something terrible, but the transition has allowed us to increase cheese production,” says Rebecca. “I wouldn’t want to make cheese without having milked ourselves. It gave us a deeper understanding of why milk changes and how.”
The couple is now scaling up their cheesemaking equipment with a new vat that holds triple that of the old one. Where they previously had to store milk at times to have enough for a batch of cheese, they will now work with fresh milk on cheesemaking days.
The new and larger supply is allowing them to cut back to making cheese 2 or 3 days a week versus their previous 3 to 5 days. They are also focusing on spring to fall, pasture-produced milk.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Old Forge Dairy, 2981 Old Forge Rd., Kent, Ohio 44240 (ph 330 221-3332; oldforgedairy@gmail.com; www.oldforgedairy.com).

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2020 - Volume #44, Issue #6