February’s Cave to Coop Cheese

Lovingly handmade by Laini Fondiller, cheesemaker and owner of Lazy Lady Farm in Westfield, Vermont, Oh My Heart  is a brie-inspired, pasteurized cow’s milk double-cream bloomy rind.  Oh My Heart  is creamy, oozing and sweet with a wonderfully buttery, tangy flavor full of mushroom and hay.

Lazy Lady is notable not just for their excellent cheeses, but for being completely off the grid as well, with all power for the farm and cheese plant coming from solar panels and wind turbines. Laini Fondiller started Lazy Lady in 1987, and it is as eclectic and unique as Laini herself. While not certified organic, the farm operates using organic practices: organic grains, organic straw for bedding, intensive rotational grazing, and fertile soils made from composted manure and the added minerals for hay production. Laini operates the farm by utilizing 17 solar panels and a 1K-wind generator. When there is no wind or sun, Lazy Lady relies on a small generator to replenish the battery bank.

Although Oh My Heart is a cow’s milk cheese, Laini raises and milks a herd of over 40 registered Alpine goats, a far cry from the handful of sheep and one goat named Blooper that she started with 25 years ago. Then the farm was operated with candles, gas lamps, hand water pumps, outdoor privy and a car battery for running a radio.

From 1987-1994 cheese was made in the kitchen. Lazy Lady’s first licensed “plant” came in 1995, and it was a 10 x 12 room where Laini made cheese in 5-gallon batches.  The first proper cheese cellar was built in 1996. In 2003, with the help of a loan from the Vermont Community Fund, a larger plant with a 50-gallon cheese vat was built, allowing Laini to make cheese 5 days a week.

In 2009 a second ripening cellar was added. The old cellar is used for aged natural rind cheeses, washed rind cheeses, alpine cheeses and blue cheese. The other is used for bloomy rind cheeses. Both of these cellars are geothermal, are over 15 feet underground and maintain temperatures of 40 degrees in the winter and 55 degrees in the summer.

Laini operates Lazy Lady Farm with Barry Shaw. They employ two full-time workers and one part-time person who comes two days per week to clean the barn, and to pet the goats and the dog. Laini walks the goats in the woods, weather permitting, to ensure they eat their fair share of herbs and woodland plants. They are sincerely and lovingly cared for, each and every one. She calls them her “working girls” and they are anything but lazy!

Laini makes many varieties of cheese, following the seasonality of her herd’s milk production. She is a woman of intense curiosity and strongly held opinion. Frequently she names her cheese to fit a particular politician or political issue of the moment: Barick Obama, BiPartisan, Fill-a-Buster, Condi-Send, Tomme d’Lay and Big Bang. Laini is regarded across the country as an American cheesemaker who has remained true to the art of the profession and the lifestyle of a small farmer. Working 60+ hours a week, Laini answers to no one but herself and her herd of goats. A bona fide Vermont pioneer whose cheese is consistently delicious, clean and exciting.

On sale at Wild Oats Market in February for $8.99 ea.

Each month, we feature regional cheesemakers by offering one of their cheeses at an amazing price. Cave to Co-op is a partnership of the Neighboring Food Co-op Association, Provisions International and regional artisan cheesemakers. Learn more at www.nfca.coop.