Continuing our Northeast Georgia discoveries, Tim Young of Nature’s Harmony Farm graciously invited us to visit his farm and give us a personal tour and tasting of his raw milk farmstead cheeses. My profiles of Nature’s Harmony’s lovely cheeses will be featured this month in the ACS “Cheese Bytes” Newsletter. You can read the ACS profiles here. I recently featured his Alpine-style Fortsonia here on the website, which received a 4 Paw rating.
Nature’s Harmony is located in the Elberton, Georgia area on about two-hundred acres that Tim and his wife began farming in 2007 as “Accidental Farmers” (The name of his first book which you can buy through the amazon icon at the bottom of this article). Discovering that they knew little about the origins of the food they were eating and feeding their children, they decided to move from suburban Atlanta and to rural Northeast Georgia.
For some inexplicable reason, they ignored their lack of knowledge regarding farming and now seven years later the family is thriving with Jersey cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, geese, sheep, goats, rabbits, vegetable gardens, fruit and nut trees that sustain their lives. He also keeps bees. My guess is the only thing they “have to buy” is coffee. Everything else is right there. If the elevation were higher and the land closer to the equator, my guess is he’d be growing coffee and roasting his own beans…
Our visit began in his unpretentious farm store where he shared tastings of the four cheeses he currently has available for sale. Making only fifteen thousand pounds of cheese each year translates into very small batches. Sometimes he runs out of certain cheeses. Gourmet Foods International distributes his cheeses in The South to select retailers including the Murray’s Cheese Shops inside Kroger stores in Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama and Tennessee.
Proudly displayed are awards and photos including 2014 Grand Prize Winner Best of Georgia Competition for Tim’s clothbound cheddar, Georgia Gold; three medals from this year’s Agri-Expo in South Africa, a 2014 Good Food Award and an autographed photo of President and Mrs. Carter (one of only three presidents candidates for whom I voted that went on to become President… but that’s another story for different-themed blog…). President Carter is a big fan of Georgia Gold.
Tim shared an interesting story about competitions and strategy when entering. In this year’s ACS Competition he decided to enter Fortsonia which qualified for both the Farmstead Cheese and Washed Rind categories. He chose Farmstead Cheese. Fortsonia scored a 97.5, finishing fourth out of the thirty-six cheeses entered in that category and therefore receiving no ribbon. Had he chosen the Washed Rind category, which also had thirty-six entries, Fortsonia would have won First Place and been in contention for Best of Show (the first place cheese in the Washed Rind Category scored a 97; half point less than Fortsonia)… who knows… as he says, the BOS cheese, Tarentaise, is a magnificent cheese and he in no way wanted to take away from it or the other winners… just an interesting bit of competition trivia. BTW, before sharing this story, I did ask Tim if it was okay with him.
While Tim told us about farming, cheesemaking and life in general, he treated The Man and me to Cherokee Rose, his new washed rind cheese named after the Georgia State Flower; Georgia Gold; Fortsonia and Elberton Blue. As mentioned above, reviews of these four tasty cheeses will be in the December ACS Newsletter and available on the ACS website.
Tim’s approach to farming, animal husbandry and cheesemaking is “old school”; the way God intended. His herd of Jerseys roam free and eat the grass and flora endemic to the area. Tim doesn’t plant seeds in the pastures; he lets nature do what it wants. In March and April, when the wild onions are blooming in the pasture, he makes Elberton Blue. The onion flavor in the milk enhances the flavors of the blue. The summer grasses and flowers blend best in his Fortsonia and Georgia Gold profiles. Rather than bend his milk to fit his desired profiles, Tim adjusts his recipes to fit the milk. Now that’s artisan cheesemaking at its best.
After our tasting, we checked out the “make” room where he works his magic turning the milk into raw milk cheese. From there we went into his aging room. He had a few wheels of Fortsonia brining and one “experimental” parm-style wheel he let The Man hold for a picture; something he would not have done if the wheel were going to be sold.
We drove about a half-mile to visit the livestock including his menagerie of chickens and Jersey cows. The pigs and turkeys were out roaming in the woods. In addition to the cows, we saw a few sheep grazing in the same pasture.
It was feeding time for the calves. The milkers are on one side of the road separated from their calves. The moms were watching, longingly, as their calves were fed by a nursing cow. This was something I had never thought about but made sense. I did know that if the babies are with their moms, the moms will withhold their milk at milkings, saving it for their young. No milk; no cheese…
He doesn’t artificially inseminate his cows; he “puts on a little mood music and lets the bull entertain the ladies” (Tim’s words, not mine). This was The Man’s favorite takeaway of the visit… why am I not surprised?
We enjoyed our afternoon “at the farm” and thank Tim for sharing his time; his knowledge and his cheese with us.
Last week, Tim sent out an email announcing his new website, The Self-Sufficient Blog, where he will be sharing his experiences farming, homesteading and living off the land. He also has written a book on homesteading, also available below.