If you visit the Tuesday Growers’ Market in Ashland and see a teal-haired, smiling young woman offering cheese samples, take one. Or maybe take a few. Try the aged Elk Mountain or the fennel-studded Special Seedy. You’ll find several types of Pholia Farm cheeses, all named after local landmarks, for sale and sampling under a small white stand. The simplicity of the stand belies the creamy and complex flavors present in the cheeses.
“We’re a really small family farm,” explains Amelia Caldwell, handing out tasty tidbits to passersby. Amelia is the daughter of Vern and Gianaclis Caldwell, who named their cheese business after her and her sister, Phoebe. The family practices artisan cheese-making on their off-the-grid farm near Rogue River.
They use Nigerian Dwarf goat milk to create the delicious cheeses, which are available for purchase at the Rogue Creamery and online and at the farm. Raising the miniature goats, whose milk acts more like sheep’s milk than goat milk, started as a 4-H project for Amelia in 2003. It has since grown into a small but substantial business.
Her mother, Gianaclis, laughed when asked if she had any idea she would become a professional cheese-maker at the outset of her daughter’s 4-H project. “Not a clue!” she says. Having grown up with cows, she had looked forward to having a milking animal again and began making her own cheese when it was evident that they had too much milk.
Her business now extends to offering cheese-making classes, farm-stays, and hosting cheese-tastings. She’s also written one book, The Farmstead Creamery Advisory, and has another in the works.
Many class attendees are also home-brewers and bring samples of their brews to taste with Pholia’s cheeses. Gianaclis is “…just amazed at the quality” of the samples. As for local beers, she recommends Standing Stone, and Wild River, whose leftover brewer’s greens are fed to the Nigerian Dwarf goats. One surprising pairing has tasters sipping on lattes with the “breakfast” Special Seedy cheese.
Pholia Farm has a motto: “If we can’t remember the doe’s name, we have too many goats.” Expanding on this, Gianaclis said, “This spring we had 105 babies, and that’s about the maximum that we can raise and raise well without compromising their care. We want to stay small.”
Editor’s note: Updated version from November 2013
Photo: Pholia Farm