Canal Junction Farmstead Cheese was established in 2007. The dairy was the last item being produced on Canal Junction Farm that was sold on the commodity market.
Canal Junction Farm was originally established in the 1850s, and since that time has always had some dairy cows. At first they probably just supplied the family with milk, but eventually there was a small herd of cows being milked and the milk was sold on the commodity milk market.
In the late 1970s-mid 1990s, the cows being milked were registered Holstein's. When the decision to rotationally graze the dairy cows was made, rather than housing and feeding them in a tie-stall barn, things really began to change. In 1997 we remodeled the existing tie-stall barn we had and where we were currently milking cows and built a New Zealand style swing parlor. This revolutionized our dairy! As time went on we learned many lessons through the school of hard knocks!
The first thing we realized was that the American Holstein cows were not going to work for grazing. For one, they are too large of animals and can really mess up pastures if the ground was kind of soft. Another thing is that they have been bred for high milk production and therefore need high energy feed, which was something we were trying to get away from through grazing. As we began to change out the breed of cows we were using, we also began decreasing the amount of grain we fed the cows. In 2004 we went completely grain free to a 100% grassfed diet.
In 2007 we began making cheese on our farm with the milk from our 100% grassfed cows. It was another time of trial and learning!
We feel that the milk being produced at Canal Junction is unique in a couple of ways. One is that the cows are 100% grassfed (dry hay fed during the winter months). Another is the soil quality where the grasses are grown. Our farm sits on very heavy clay soil. The conventional crop farming that is done on this soil just keeps taking nutrients out of the soil and those nutrients are not being replaced. We have worked the past decade or so at getting the nutrient balance in the soil back where it should be. We feel that the soil has come back to life through the past several years. The results are better quality grasses and forages which turn in to better tasting and nutrient rich milk...which is showcased in the flavor of the cheeses.