Potter County cheese operation has distinct blue and white flavor

University Park, Pa. -- When you taste Country Bleu Cheese, Heavenly Havarti or any of the other artisanal cheeses of God's Country Creamery in Potter County, Pa., don't be surprised if you detect a strong blue-and-white flavor. Since 2008, Penn State sophomore Philip Bachman and his family have been operating a cheese-production facility that is clearly influenced by Penn State. And, beyond its Nittany Lion aspects, the creamery's story is one of agricultural entrepreneurism powered by a love of farming.

Bachman, an animal sciences major in the College of Agricultural Sciences, is a fourth-generation dairy farmer coming from both his mother's and father's families. Parents Mark and Melanie both graduated from Penn State with degrees in dairy production. They met in college through the Dairy Science Club and were both involved with the dairy judging team. His sister, Rachel, is a 2008 Penn State alumna, and baby-sister Hannah has been accepted into the Penn State Class of 2014.

As the driving force in building the cheese house, Bachman is assistant cheese-maker and also takes an active role in the milking operation in the family-run creamery. The family operated an 80-cow dairy farm until 2000, when the tough dairy-industry climate convinced them to sell most of their herd. But they slowly realized that dairy farming wasn't out of their collective systems yet.

"In September 2007, the whole family came to the consensus that we needed to keep the cows we owned on the farm instead of sending them to other farms around us," he said. "We had developed our herd to the point that we really wanted to keep them and be fully involved with their daily upkeep. I started exploring ways to accomplish this."

Bachman lobbied for the family to make artisanal cheeses and market them as healthy, locally produced products. This strategy has propelled the family business to rapid success.

"As we entered the food-processing field, we toyed with the idea of becoming certified organic," he said. "After looking over the regulations for certification, we determined that this was not exactly the way we wanted to go. We wanted to still be able to use antibiotics to treat our animals' illnesses. Beyond this, we use no antibiotics. We try to make milk as naturally as possible, which results in better-quality cheese and happier consumers."

Their cows are primarily pasture-fed in the summer months. When not on pasture, they eat hay baleage and a corn-soybean-minerals formulation develop by Mark.

"We believe that a grass-based diet makes the milk sweeter and ultimately makes a tastier cheese," Philip said. "I personally love our Boondocks Cheddar because it exemplifies the taste that we aim for. We only make it occasionally in small batches, but it's becoming more available as we produce more to fulfill buyers' demand.

Bachman, 19, splits his time between college and creamery, and he says his Penn State education has greatly helped his cheese-making. He also works part-time at the university's famous Berkey Creamery.

"My plan at this point is to make farmstead dairy processing my future profession, since it's already my current passion," he said. "With all this involvement, I can confidently say that I wouldn't mind making cheese for the rest of my life if that opportunity arises. I simply love to make my own product from my cows. I also feel excited that we are being responsible with the milk that our cows produce."

Learn more about God's Country Creamery online at http://www.godscountrycreamery.com.

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Last Updated November 18, 2010