Samish Bay Cheese
Producers: Suzanne and Roger Wechsler and Jim Morgan
Located in: Bow, Wash.
Supplying PCC since: the 2000s
Supplies PCC with: Artisan, certified-organic farmstead cheese, crafted from the milk of the farm's own dairy cows.
All in one place: Rootabaga Country Farm, home of Samish Bay Cheese, occupies 150 acres in the northwest corner of Skagit County, surrounded by Samish Bay, the Chuckanut Mountains and the grass-green fields of the Skagit/Samish Valley. The farm's organic dairy is supplied by the farm's own herd, which is fed 100 percent organic feed from birth. The cows are put out to pasture except when the fields are too wet.
A stellar cast of characters: Samish Bay's mixed herd comprises Jersey, milking Shorthorn, Dutch Belted and cross-bred cows. They raise the heifers (females) to milk for their cheese. The males (steers) are raised for beef.
Local cheese, please!
Few moments can make one appreciate good food more than an afternoon meal of crisp fresh apples, big chunks of artisan bread and the very best farmstead cheese. We are fortunate to have a plentiful supply of all the delectable components of this light feast all in the same region.
At the base of Chuckanut Mountain in Skagit County, Jersey cows with big brown eyes munch slowly in a wide open grassy field. This pastoral setting is part of Samish Bay Cheese and Rootabaga Country Farm — a true dairy farmstead where fresh milk is made into beautiful cheeses only yards from the milking parlor. Roger and Suzanne Wechsler have been the proprietors of this little piece of paradise since the late 1990s.
All of the certified-organic cheeses are handcrafted on-site by cheesemakers in a steamy but remarkably spotless room off the barn. Even the floor of the barn and the milking stations have a noteworthy mark of tidiness. The barn smells of fresh grain and bales of hay, grown on the farm and stacked neatly under the domain of the resident barn owl. One can sense the generations of hard work that linger in this old barn. It ties in well to the feeling that this is how cheese should be made.
The herd is milked twice a day. The milk is stored in large refrigerated tanks and pumped into the cheese room several times each week. Here, it's made into Samish Bay's many cheese varieties — including a rich, creamy Gouda; a sharp, dry Mont Blanchard (named after the local mountain); or a hard, Italian Montasio.
It takes about 700 pounds of milk to make 80 pounds of cheese. After the curds develop, they're pressed into two- or six-pound European molds. The cheese is turned daily until dry and then waxed or wrapped and carried to the aging room, where the wheels remain for two months to more than a year, depending on the perfect ripening age.
A cheese lover's paradise for visitors, it's hard and rewarding work for Roger, Suzanne, Jim Morgan (their key worker) and the half-dozen others on the farm. Oh, but what an office — to be able to stop for a moment and look out upon life at its most peaceful. A perfect setting for some good cheese, artisan bread and ripe fruit.
By Alicia Lundquist Guy, Sound Consumer, January 2003. Updated February 2010