Green Dirt Farm’s Creamery Brings the Farm to Market 3

Weston is a destination for local cheese, wine, and bread.

Follow the dog-leg bend eastbound on Welt Street in Weston and just before the intersection with 45 Highway, there’s a delicious reason to pull off the road at Green Dirt Farm’s Creamery. The sheep farm, founded by Sarah Hoffmann and known for its award-winning cheeses, opened a retail space and tasting room in early June. Inside, the Creamery is home to a bounty of farm cheeses, sheep’s milk yogurt, ice cream, and local wine and bread.

Hoffmann seized the opportunity to acquire the stone building, built in the late 1980s by a former winery, that houses the Creamery. The additional space establishes a retail-friendly footprint near historic downtown Weston and near the farm. The addition solves several challenges that hindered Green Dirt Farm from growing and prospering.

Green Dirt’s base of operations on Mt. Bethel Road lies north of downtown Weston. An unpaved lane across rocky land and past lush pastures leads uphill to the farm. Farm staff tend to the sheep’s welfare, grazing, and milking. Head cheesemaker Rachel Kleine oversees production of sheep’s milk cheeses and yogurt. That hilly dirt road created challenges for delivery trucks that needed to navigate the treacherous road, load inventory, and ship to area retailers.

“In wintertime when the road is icy, the trucks wouldn’t try to drive up,” says Hoffmann. “We’d have to bring pallets of product down to the base of the road by tractor.”

As the farm’s production has steadily increased from 18,000 pounds of cheese in 2015 to a projected 25,000 pounds this year, the shipping/loading issue needed to be resolved for more practical operations. Also, the propane-fueled farm wasn’t equipped for increased public traffic and parking for tours and events at its refurbished barn. The offsite building addressed Green Dirt’s production challenges for shipping and created the potential for an attractive storefront.

“The building has a dock for shipping and loading, high-speed internet, and three-phase electrical power,” Hoffmann says. “We can use the Creamery as a production space.”

Hoffmann had her eye on the building for eight years. Previously, a local lawyer acquired the building in 2004 from the winery which used the space as a tasting room and warehouse. Converted into an office space upstairs, the building had ample room below decks that interested Hoffmann.

“I spoke with the owner about using the basement as an aging space for cheese,” Hoffmann says, “but it didn’t work out. In summer 2015, I thought about the farm’s production challenges and wished for that building.”

On a whim, Hoffmann decided to drive by the building. The lawyer had taken down the law office sign with plans to relocate. He was on the premises and planned to put the building on the market the next day when Hoffmann pulled into the drive. They later agreed to a deal and Green Dirt’s expansion was underway.

The new space features warm wood floors and beams, a counter for display of cheeses, a small kitchen for making and serving sandwiches and charcuterie plates, and even locally-made ice cream. The basement is used for shipping and loading. A labor-saving conveyor belt eases and speeds off-loading of hundreds of pounds of milk. To supplement sheep’s milk from Green Dirt, Hoffmann has sourced cow’s milk from Amish farmers in Stanberry and Bethany, Missouri, to use in production. A blast freezer behind the building is capable of freezing perishable surplus milk in 12 hours.

“Sheep are seasonal milk producers,” says Hoffmann. “We can now store milk year-round. The Amish farmers share the same values on animal welfare, organic practices, and environmental sustainability.”

That increased inventory enables Green Dirt Farm to expand production and achieve sustainability as a small dairy farm, where growth is vital for economic survival.

“We have to grow to be a sustainable business, where we can provide a living for our employees, versus being a hobby,” says Hoffmann. “We sell retail in volume direct to consumers and via distributors and cheesemongers throughout the Midwest.”

Kansas City area customers and tourists can now visit the Creamery and buy direct from the source. Purchase of Green Dirt’s cheeses, such as bloomy rind Dirt Lover, firm Aux Arc, a blend of cow’s and sheep’s milk cheese dubbed Ruby, as well as its Only Ewe yogurt, supports the farm’s operations. Hoffmann is also excited about the array of ice cream developed by cheesemaker Kleine in stock and rotating flavors such as clementine thyme, vanilla, dark chocolate, and brown butter pecan.

Chef and cheesemonger Pat McCroy oversees the Creamery’s kitchen and retail counter. The Creamery offers a selection of grilled cheeses, sandwiches, and cheese and charcuterie boards. The Stinky One is a grilled cheese blend of Green Dirt’s Bossa, Swiss, and provolone. The I’m So Fancy sandwich combines lamb and pork pate, Aux Arc cheese, dill pickles, and stoneground mustard on a Hearth baguette.

Hearth Bread Company, operated by pastry chef Dylan Low, is located a few minutes away from the Creamery on Missouri 45 Highway. The Creamery sells loaves of Hearth’s sourdough and other breads along with Askinosie Chocolate from Springfield, Missouri, local honey, and other products.

What’s cheese without wine? The Creamery is also home to Terra Vox Vineyard’s Tasting Room. The winery, also based in the Northland, produces superior wines from North American heritage grapes such as Lenoir, Wetumka, Norton, and Cloeta. The award-winning wines are sophisticated with a broad range of aromas and flavors that transcend the cloying sweetness often associated with wines made from native grapes. Guests may sample wine, buy a bottle, and indulge with a hearty sandwich or platter of cheese, meats, preserves, and bread.

The Creamery and Tasting Room unites many of the desirable and edible products that artisans from Weston and the region have to offer. There’s no reason to be sheepish about making the brief drive north to support local farmers, bakers, and winemakers one bite and sip at a time.