IN THE 1930s, Rory and Sarah Chase’s grandfather raised horses and some cows on over 350 acres of land in Pine Plains, Dutchess County, and 30 years later, their father established a dairy farm there and bred registered Holsteins. The two siblings grew up on the farm—now they’ve returned to the farm and have transformed it into one of the growing number of farmstead cow-milk creameries in the Hudson Valley.
Rory, 37, spent his childhood milking cows, tending crops, driving tractors, “and whatever else needed to be done.” He left for college 20 years ago with no plans to return. Ten years later Sarah, now 27, attended college in Ohio and, like her brother, left her agricultural roots behind. By 2007, their father had sold off most of the herd, and milk production at the farm ceased.
In the meantime, a cheese-making course at Cal Poly/UC Davis reawakened the dairy farmer in Rory, and he returned home to establish the Amazing Real Live Food Company while breeding some heifers to grow his father’s herd. (Kombucha, a tea-based health tonic, and sauerkraut were its primary products.) He spent about a year at neighboring Ronnybrook Farm’s creamery while his ideas about cheesemaking ripened. Sarah, who graduated from college in 2010, also found her roots reawakened—she returned to New York to learn herd management at Hawthorne Valley Farm, and in 2013 she joined her brother full-time as the herd manager. And the Amazing Real Live Food Company became Chaseholm Farm Creamery.
Under Sarah’s expertise, the herd of nearly 80 cows—half of which are milkers—are hormone-free and graze rotationally on no-spray pastures to help preserve the soil integrity. Their diets are GMO-free—even the corn they eat prior to milking is non-GMO, grown and ground on the farm. Sarah breeds the cows to sustain high levels of A-2 protein, a natural component of cow’s milk, which aids in the balance of amino acids.
This digestive benefit is still present in the cheeses, as well. Chaseholm currently offers four varieties of their fromage blanc (farmer’s cheese) and eight other cheeses, including Moonlight, a Chaource-style, soft-ripened cheese rolled in sea salt and vegetable ash. (The yeast-mold rind allows the cheese to age from the outside in to create the creamy, slightly crumbly center of Chaource, while the vegetable ash checks the acid-raising process and helps perfect the texture and bite that accompany the aging process. “The ash is a fun one—it’s beautiful,” Rory remarks.) Chaseholm’s best seller is Camembert, with a white, bloomy rind that acquires a buttery, smooth center as it ages. A raw-milk tomme, Stella Vallis, has a slight nutty taste encompassed in a natural rind. It’s aged as 5.5-pound wheels and sold whole or as wedges. Prices for Chaseholm cheeses range from $6 for 5 ounces of herbed farmer’s cheese to $12 for a half-pound wedge of Stella Vallis.
Chaseholm Farm cheeses and other products are available online, at the farm store and at several regional farmers’ markets.