How do you tell it’s autumn in Wisconsin? The evenings start to cool, the leaves begin to turn, and Otter Creek Organic Farm releases its raw milk Fall Seasonal Cheddar.
Even in Wisconsin, a state regaled for its cheddar heritage, Otter Creek Organic Farm’s seasonal cheddars stand out. Available in select retail stores across the nation, the farm’s raw milk Fall Seasonal Cheddar bears a striking label telling the story of this award-winning cheese. It starts with the beautiful clean grasses of Otter Creek's organic fields, where 180 farmstead Holsteins graze and produce flavorful milk. It ends with that same milk being used to make cheddars tasting like the seasons in which they were crafted.
Made locally by Master Cheesemaker Bob Wills at nearby Cedar Grove Cheese in Plain, Wis., and released just this week, Otter Creek’s Fall Organic Cheddar is now 11 months old (each season’s cheese is aged and released one year later for peak flavor). So how exactly does Fall Cheddar taste?
“The cows that produced this cheese grazed on Wisconsin pastures of mature rye, alfalfa, clover and late season annuals,” says Bartlett Durand, of Otter Creek Organic Farm. “As the grass peaks in flavor, so does the milk. Good milk makes good cheese, and although the strength of the seasonal cheddars depends primarily on the amount of time they are aged, the Fall is relatively the strongest flavor, and the one my cheesemaker most prefers."
Otter Creek Cheddar has gained recognition at several prestigious award competitions, winning ribbons at both the 2007 U.S. Cheese Championship Contest and the 2007 American Cheese Society Competition. Retailers have also recognized its unique taste, showcasing the remarkable Otter Creek Seasonal Cheddars in promotions and educational pieces, often pairing two seasons with the always-available Pesto cheddar.
So how does a seasonal cheddar come into being? It began with Otter Creek Organic Farm owners Gary and Rosie Zimmer, who started in the 1970s, raising their children on the land and instilling in them an interest in agriculture and conservation. In 1994, with their son, Nicholas, they purchased Otter Creek farm in the rolling hills of southwest Wisconsin.
Originally a crop farm, the family decided to move into organic dairy and bought 40 dairy cows. Nicholas Zimmer and three other families now run Otter Creek Organic Farm, a 1,200-acre farmstead that includes 180 Holsteins, pastured-raised beef and hogs, free-range poultry, and Local Choice Farm Market, where Otter Creek Farm products are sold locally.
In March, the Zimmers were named the 2008 MOSES Organic Farmer of the Year by the board of directors of the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service. In addition, the farm has been recognized by national environmental organizations for its role in protecting wildlife, caring for the environment, treating livestock humanely, and engaging in fair, safe labor practices. Gary Zimmer is today an international speaker sought after for his unique research in how to farm sustainably using mineralized, balanced agriculture.
So the next time you see Otter Creek Seasonal Cheddars in a store near you, check it out.