You may not yet be familiar with Craigs Creamery, but you will certainly be a fan after trying their cheddars at Dan’s GrillHampton and Taste of Two Forks this weekend, July 19 and 20, at Fairview Farm at Mecox. This dairy company has a unique story, having been formed as a collaboration between a whopping eight farms in western New York. Chris Noble, one of the founders of this highly promising new player in the dairy industry, talks about how the company formed, their remarkable approach to sustainability and more.
How did the eight farms come together to form Craigs Creamery?
So a lot of these farms have been milking cows and farming the acres in western New York here for generations. And we’re all fairly close together in proximity, so we’ve known each other either through school or through neighborhood events or baseball leagues. And so we kind of got this group together.
The eight of us decided we wanted to do a little bit more than just produce milk on the farm. We wanted to find what was coming off the farm in terms of a consumer product. That evolution probably started back in 2012, 2013. And eventually, as we started to get going, eventually going into cheese production we developed this brand called Craigs Creamery, which I think speaks to the legacy and the history of the farms, but also the location of the farms in New York State.
Where does the name Craig come from?
Our facility and our farm is located on Craig Road [in Pavilion, NY]. It’s a nod to the location. But just down the road from the creamery is an old railroad station called Craigs Station and that used to ferry milk and cream from the area of western New York where we’re located down into the Hoboken area and that milk and cream would be distributed into Long Island and the city and that was 110 years ago. We’re basically doing the 21st century version of what those farmers did back in the late 19th century.
How did you foster all these friendships and relationships? Eight farms coming together is a large undertaking.
All of us are members of a cooperative. Milk goes off the farm every day. Normally, farmers get together in a cooperative. We share some resources back and forth, share equipment. So we all knew each other and a couple of the families are related to each other going back generations. We don’t view our competitors as being our next door neighbors; we view our competitors globally as the New Zealanders or the Europeans, not the guy down the road.
Talk about your biodigester.
What the biodigester does is recycle all the high-strength wastewater from the plants and all the manure from the cows on the farm and creates biogas. Then we add food scraps that are collected from supermarkets and restaurants and add that to the process. The biogas can be used to create electricity, so effectively what we’re doing is creating enough electricity to power the entire campus with wastewater and the material that we’re bringing in from outside the farm.
It’s really in line with some legislation that was recently passed by New York State back in March that’s trying to encourage food waste to be diverted away from landfills and be used either as energy or nutrients for the farmers. That’s gonna have a big implication on your state and Long Island so we’re actually rolling out a little bit of this story to help share the message that this is the future of not only dairy farming in New York State, but also where New York State is going from a sustainability perspective.
Tell us about the product itself.
What we ended up doing was we partnered with Cornell University to develop some really neat recipes that take the flavors of the milk that is produced in our area and combines them with what consumers are looking for in terms of flavor profile. We were able to get these nice recipes started and then we put them in place at our new state of the art plant. So the secret sauce is having milk from these specific eight farms and we kind of cater the milk specifically to the flavor profile of the cheese.
It’ll be unique to the dairy industry, especially in the US, where you have specific farms that are feeding these cheese profiles. That’s being done in Europe, but I think it’s just starting to come to the US. And we’re starting to make waves on that front. So the cheese itself is primarily cheddar.
We have a mild, medium and sharp cheddar which is aged six months or more. And then we’re rolling out an extra sharp cheddar here in the back half of the year. It’s not a tangy sharp flavor that you might find in the grocery store, it’s actually more of a mild, creamy aged kind of flavor profile, which I think is really neat to be able to incorporate into your daily usage, whether that’s a slice of cheese on your sandwich or a snack bar at lunch, but it can also be used in food service. We’re actually aging the cheese out in large blocks that chefs can use, as well.