Farm Apprentice and Cheese Maker

Our position as Farm Apprentices and Cheese Makers

My partner Mike and I moved back to New England to grow new roots in the Berkshires. We have made a commitment to live and learn for the next year at Cricket Creek Farm and Creamery in Williamstown, Massachusetts.  The farm is nestled in the very northwest corner of the state. Our property is 500 acres, and behind the main barns and four houses on the property lays 200 acres of woodlands. On the farm we raise pastured hens for eggs, Brown Swiss and Jersey cows for their raw milk, milk-fed veal, pastured Hereford beef cows, and whey-fed pastured pigs. We have a herd of 30 dairy cows, and there is a herd of young heifers that will be dairy cows in the future, as well as there are always a few dry cows that are due to calf soon. We sell our cheese, raw milk, eggs, butter, and meat through our on-site farm store, our CSA, local farmer's markets, and through restaurants and cheese shops. Our farm is certified humane and animal welfare approved, which are independent certifications that acknowledge our rightful treatment and handling of our animals. Our chickens, cows, and pigs are rotationally grazed on pasture through the whole season. We milk the cows and make cheese and butter year round.

Our chicken coop out on pasture at dusk. 

We are quite the crew here. Jude Sabot along with her son Topher Sabot own the farm. Suzy Konecky is the head cheese maker on the farm as well as plays a major role in the marketing of our products. Matthew Ball, Suzy's partner, is the herd manager along with Topher, and does a little bit of everything and all of the maintenance that keeps the farm going. And then there are the five interns - Jenni, Paul, Casey, Mike, and I - who have committed to working here for a year together.  All of the interns live in the yellow house together, which is just to the left as you come up the driveway.

We are working as paid apprentices here at Cricket Creek and we both have split roles on the farm. Mike is a bit more on the farm side, as I am a bit more on the cheese side of things. In the cheese room, my primary focus is to make, maintain the quality of, affinage and age out our award winning Maggie's round cheese. On Thursday, Friday and Sunday, I can be found cutting and hooping curd, brushing wheels, and cutting and wrapping hundreds of pounds of cheese for wholesale and the farmer's markets. On Tuesdays, I am at the Northampton Farmer's Market from 1:30 - 6:30 pm selling our cheese, butter, and grass-fed beef. Wednesday is my farm day, where I am working on the pastures and fences, cleaning the barn, and milking. And on Saturdays, I prepare and staff the CSA distribution from 11:00 am - 3:00 pm where our member come by the farm to pick up their raw milk, eggs, meat cuts and ground beef, cheese, and butter for the week. And then I milk the cows Saturday evenings. Between the herd managers, Topher and Matthew, and Mike and I we share the role of milking.

Mike's role on the farm gives him many of tasks in a day. He is always fixing equipment and tractors, working on pasture and fence maintenance, milking the cows, moving bales of hay and haylage, and helping with making hay. On Wednesdays, Mike is in the cheese room helping to make our fresh cheese and butter. Every once in a while he helps out making Tobasi and Maggie's round as well as cutting and wrapping cheese. For the first two months of our stay here, we were the only interns, so we spent a lot more time in the cheese room and learned how to make everything. On Thursday, Mike travels to Manchester, Vermont for their farmer's market to sell cheese, meat, and bread from our on-site bakery. On Saturdays, Mike travels to Troy, New York for their farmer's market to sell our farmstead, hand made, butter.

Mike milking the his bathing suit!

We work long, hard days and eat really really well. We eat everything we cultivate on the farm, plus we have a CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture) share with Caretaker Farm right down the road for our vegetables and herbs. And we are growing a large garden this year for canning and food preservation. Mondays are our days off, and we look forward to that day every weeks as the day nears. We at times feel warn out, and at times feel ecstatic, but we are enjoying our experience here. This is the fifth farm we have worked at in the last three years, and it will be our longest farm job out of any. Our skill set so far includes raising, breeding, and learning how to maintain the health of dairy cows, meat cows, goats, chickens, turkeys, guinea fowl, and pigs, especially heritage breeds. We also have the experience of cultivating the land up to a 1/2 acre, and growing a diversified array of fruits and vegetables. From here I still want to learn a larger scale of biodynamic vegetable production, holistic orcharding, natural hive beekeeping, and alternative techniques of all kinds including no-barn, no-hay farming with heritage breeds and grazing year round. We have aspirations of finding land to farm, and working in community, ideally finding an existing farm that is looking for a couple families to take it over.

Now I have shared with you our intentions, I hope this helps to understand who I am and my pursuit for farm living and feeling healthy. I have never had a more restful night of sleep then when I work hard on the farm all day and come home feeling satisfied and positive about my experiences and how I am making good food accessible to people in my community.

1 comment:

  1. nicole, i am so pleased to read all of this. you are glorious! and you sound so happy. i will come see you two very soon. sending so much love <3