The Goat Cheeses of Georges Mill Farm By Emily Hilliard Along the back roads of Loudon County, en route to Georges Mill Farm in Lovettsville, Virginia, there are signs that you’re still within striking distance of a major metropolitan area, as newer homes and development extend their reach among the rolling farms with old barns and white farmhouses.
But as you finally round the corner of Georges Farm Road and spot the Civil War–era stone house and the quaint barn-red Georges Mill Farm stand, you feel as if you’ve entered a landscape all its own, a historic haven very separate from the new growth in the county.
Climbing the driveway past the lawn of the stone house-turned-bed and breakfast, you come upon a converted corn crib, now the home of Sam and Molly Kroiz, 31 and 28, respectively, who run Georges Mill Farm Artisan Cheese—the farmstead goat cheese operation on the property. Sam, whose family has owned the farm since 1732, now represents the eighth generation on the land. Though Georges Mill has not been actively farmed by direct members of Sam’s family since before his grandfather was born, the couple have reinvigorated their long-held familial tradition with their herd of Alpine dairy goats and artisanal goat cheese production.
“For a long time it was just a diversified farm,” says Molly. “They had some cows and horses and some crops. And primarily for at least the last 30 years it’s been mostly hay, with some horses periodically. For a few generations now, most of the actual farming has been done by other relatives and people that rented the land, so it’s great to bring it back to the family for sure.”
The couple became interested in goat farming when they were living out on the West Coast, where Molly had just finished grad school and was working as a biologist, while making cheese for fun.
“We came to farming in a sort of roundabout way from the cheesemaking side of it. I really liked making cheese and wanted to do that and I never really thought too much about buying milk—I always kind of wanted to do the whole farmstead operation where you’ve got the animals and the milk,” says Molly. (According to the American Cheese Society, “farmstead” refers to operations where the cheese is made only from milk from the farmer’s own herd, on the farm where the animals are raised.)
Molly, originally from Maine, had seen a lot of farmstead cheese operations in her home state as well as in Washington and Oregon, where the market seemed to be saturated. When they considered setting up their own operation on Sam’s family farm, they realized it might be the ideal place. Loudon County, historically the breadbasket of Virginia, offers advantageous tax easements for agriculture, and the D.C. metro area presented a very viable market, where excitement for local food is only growing. They moved back to the farm in 2011 and got their first herd of French and American Alpine dairy goats in 2012.
When asked why they chose goats rather than sheep or cows, the Kroizes don’t blink an eye. “Cows are too big and sheep are too dumb,” says Molly. “I can manhandle [goats] if I need to. You can’t do that with a 1,200-pound cow.” Sam agrees, adding,“Goats are the coolest livestock, hands down.”
The couple’s affection for goat cheese was also a big selling point. Their original herd of two doelings and two does has now grown to over 30 goats, with two farm dogs, Loretta and Conway (named after Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty), to watch over them all.
While Sam takes on much of the farm infrastructure work, Molly is the main cheesemaker. She produces the Georges Mill farmstead goat cheeses out of a cheese room set up on the second level of the historic barn, which sits atop a hill, looking out across the corn crib, goat pen and stone inn. Beginning as a hobby cheesemaker, she took cheesemaking classes and developed her skills with the help of books such as Gianaclis Caldwell’s Mastering Artisan Cheesemaking and The Farmstead Creamery Advisor as well as The Fabrication of Farmstead Goat Cheese by Jean-Claude Le Jaouen. After testing recipes for a year, experimenting with different bacterial cultures, Molly settled on five styles—a fresh chèvre, a feta and three “bloomy rinds” or aged goat cheeses, including the Catoctin, a plain-rind aged cheese; the Cavalry Camp, which has a vegetable ash rind; and the Picnic Woods, which features a rind covered in fresh herbs.
Molly makes cheeses about every three days, selling them at the Leesburg Farmers’ Market and supplying them to several area wineries and local restaurants including Market Table Bistro in Lovettsville and Market Burger in Purcellville, The Wine Kitchen in Purcellville, Patowmack Farm in Lovettsville and the Good Stone Inn in Middleburgh.
They also offer two 15-week cheese CSAs and have an adorably quaint self-service store on the property. There you can help yourself to freshcheese, goat’s milk soap and eggs from their chickens, leaving your money in an envelope in the mail slot. They even offer crackers in case you can’t wait until you get home to sample your newly purchased goat cheese.
While Georges Mill Farm Artisan Cheese has been successful despite only being in production for two years, maintaining the farm and operation does not come without its challenges.
“I think for us a lot of it is trying to balance,” says Molly, “like figuring out at what point are we’re going to need to hire somebody and whether we’ll have the income to do that as we grow. Another issue is just getting our product around.”
Though relatively close to D.C., distance to restaurants and retail shops can prove difficult for distribution, especially because it’s just the two of them running the whole show. But the Kroizes are excited about the future, which they say includes getting a few whey-fed pigs of their own (they currently have another farmer’s pigs on the property that eat the whey left over from cheesemaking); hosting events and more cheesemaking classes (Molly hosts a few throughout the summer); and growing the operation to that sustainable point where they’re able to make a comfortable living.
“There was a certain amount of romanticism about moving here and starting the operation,” Molly says. “And I actually haven’t lost too much of it. There are definitely moments when I’m, like, ‘There have to be easier ways to make a living!’ But no, I still feel very good about the choice that we made.”
To find out more about Georges Mill Artisan Cheese, sign up for their CSA or attend one of their cheesemaking classes, visit GeorgesMillCheese.com.
- Emily Hilliard is a Washington, D.C-based folklorist and writer. She writes the pie blog www.nothinginthehouse.com.
You can find Georges Mill goat cheese at the following places:
• Direct from the farm in Lovettsville, Virginia
• Via the 15-week CSA (details at: GeorgesMillCheese.com/csa/)
• The Leesburg Farmers’ Market
• Market Table Bistro, Lovettsville, Virginia
• WK Hearth, Purcellville, Virginia
• Market Burger, Purcellville, Virginia
• Bluewater Kitchen, Bluemont, Virginia
• Bluemont Vineyard, Bluemont, Virginia
• The Natural Mercantile, Hamilton, Virginia
• For Goodness Sake, Leesburg, Virginia
• The Butterfly Gourmet, Purcellville, Virginia
Find recipes for the Swiss Chard & Goat Cheese Galette and Goat Cheese Tart with Almond Shortbread Crust and Rhubarb Jam with Vanilla and Balsamic here!