The Fiscalini Dairy Farm has been located in the Central San Joaquin Valley of California for almost 100 years. John Fiscalini and his family are carrying on the tradition producing European-style handcrafted cheeses made with raw milk and using vegetarian suitable rennet.
Their milk becomes cheese within eight hours of leaving their cows, ensuring fresh, clean cheese every time and the result is undeniable… damn fine cheese!
Of course, it helps to have Master Cheesemaker Mariano Gonzales overseeing every step of the cheesemaking process. Mariano grew-up in Paraguay where his uncle taught him the art. When he came to the US, he settled in Vermont and went to work at Shelburne Farms, rising to Head Cheesemaker. In 2001, John wooed him to California and the awards began rolling in and just keep on coming.
In 2007, for the first time in the history of The World Cheese Awards, a non-English Cheese took home “Best Extra Mature traditional Cheddar”. Yep, it was Fiscalini’s Bandaged Wrapped Cheddar, which Mariano crafted after the traditional English Cheddars.
The Fiscalinis are also respectful stewards to their cows and the environment, using sustainable farming practices and lighting their farm with electricity created from their cow manure and processed through a methane digester… in essence literally “turning s##t into shinola”… that’s pretty cool, if you ask me…
And now for my interview with John Fiscalini:
Spaulding Gray: First, of course, I want to thank John for taking the time from his cheesemaking duties and farm “chores” to answer a few questopn. On behalf of The Lady and all our loyal readers, we really appreciate it.
Your farm has been around for almost 100 years. Did you ever consider not entering the “family business” or did you always want to make cheese?
John Fiscalini: In college I majored in microbiology and genetics, and almost took a job in the micro field as a researcher. My family did not make cheese, but only had the dairy farm.
Spaulding Gray: Did you attend school to learn cheesemaking or was it all on-the-job?
John: I took a class at Cal Poly which helped me get started, but hiring Mariano Gonzalez to be my cheesemaker was the smartest move I made in the cheese making arena.
SG: Tell us about your farm and your animals. Your website says “Farmstead”; some may not understand the term. Please explain.
JF: The farm is 100 years old this year. We have registered Holsteins, Jerseys, and Brown Swiss cows. We farm 460 acres, growing forages for our cows. We are Farmstead, meaning that we use only milk from our own cows to make cheese. This allows us to know everything about the milk supply, so we can focus on making the best cheese possible. Our production is still the old fashioned way, with a lot of hand labor, and dedication by the cheesemaker.
Spaulding: Have you ever eaten Velveeta? Where and when?
John: I hate to admit that I grew up in a household that ate Velveeta. When it was the only “cheese” in the refrigerator, it was consumed.
(Editor’s Note: The Lady has eaten Velveeta, also. I, however, have never had Velveeta touch my kitty lips…)
SG: Do you have any tips for aspiring cheesemakers?
JF: Marketing is really hard. Don’t plan to become wealthy as a cheesemaker.
Spaulding: What cheese would you pair with Elephas maximus ? Would your pairing go better with beer or wine?
John: I do not understand the question.
(Editor’s Note: However you choose to pair Elephas maximus… you’re gonna have lots of leftovers…just sayin…)
Again, John thanks for taking the time.