Ohio Cheese Women

By Jean Mackenzie

Across the county, we have all witnessed the rise of female chefs, vintners and brewers. Women have made names for themselves in each of these businesses that have historically been dominated by men. Now we are seeing a rise in the number of women who have made their move into the cheesemaking arena and are crafting amazing cheeses.

Illustration by Kyllea Kerg

Illustration by Kyllea Kerg

Ohio is incredibly fortunate to have 16 amazing women cheesemakers, making cheeses that rival anything from France or anywhere else. Behind each of these wonderful women there is a great story and I’m delighted to give you a quick peek. 

1.  Blue Jacket Dairy in Bellefontaine            

Blue Jacket Dairy’s name originates from the Blue Jacket Creek that flows through their property, which in turn is named after the famous Ohio Indian Chief Blue Jacket, who built a settlement in Bellefontaine around 1777. Many of Angel’s cheeses are named after locations or people from her area. Angel’s cow milk comes from Holstein cows and her goat milk comes from Saanen goats.

Fresh Cheese Curd, Gretna Grilling and Ludlow (aged)
Chèvre, Farmhouse Feta, Mozzarella and Houtz (aged)

2.  Colonial Classics Farmstead Cheese in Scio

Colonial Classics Farmstead Cheese is one of the longest-licensed artisan creameries in Ohio. Kebria was inspired by the cheesemaking stories and techniques of her 105-year-old grandmother. She decided to create farm products of yesteryear with all the purity and natural nutrition that people once took for granted but had become hard to find.

Colonial Classics Farmstead Cheese uses old-style methods of animal husbandry as well as old-style methods of producing handmade cheddar cheese of varying degrees of sharpness and flavor. They use no antibiotics, pesticides or hormones and make grass-fed, all-natural, handmade raw milk cheddar cheese. 

Small Batch Cheddar

3.  Fulton Creek Jersey Cheese in Richwood

Fulton Creek Jersey Cheese grew out of an idea that a bit of the good life is released when one works in harmony with the land and its fruits. And nothing is more fruitful that the Jersey cow!

Hans Havarti, Erasmus (Edam), Churchill Cheddar, Grommet Cheddar, Van Gouda, Joe Peppertome (Pyrenees), Clove Tomme (Pyrenees), Colby, Monterrey Jack with red peppers, Moor or Leicester. Coming soon: Bold Blue Cheese and Parmesan

4.  Integration Acres in Albany

Michelle Gorman’s Integration Acres is a specialty food business as well as a farmstead goat dairy. They are the world’s largest processor of the pawpaw, a delicious and nutritious fruit. The pawpaw looks like a short, fat banana. It has a fragrant aroma, a custardy texture and a tropical taste. The best ones are rich, creamy and sweet, reminding some people of banana cream pie. Compared to apples, peaches and grapes, pawpaw is higher in food energy, has more than double the amount of vitamin C and is much higher in minerals. It is higher in protein, fiber and carbohydrates. It has a much higher content of amino acids in a good balance. It has mainly unsaturated fatty acids and is a good source of linoleic and linolenic acids. They are high in antioxidants.

In her early years of working with pawpaw trees, Michelle quickly realized that the goats didn’t eat the leaves of the pawpaw tree, making it easy to integrate goats into their orchards. The goats kept the weeds down all the while fertilizing the orchard! The farm evolved from there, and eventually Integration Farms made the jump from grazing goats to milking them and finally to getting licensed to make cheese!

Chèvre, The Smoky Goat, Griffin’s Dream, Charred Marshmallow, Percy’s Blue, Alexander Tomme, Feta, Gouda, Chase Cheddar, Romano. Coming soon: a beer-smeared cheese is in the works but it’s still aging!
Snow Melt (aged), Gouda raw milk (aged), Milk cheddar, Milk tomme

5.  JZN Goat Farm in West Union

JZN Goat Farm is 126 acres of rolling hills, including a lazy winding creek. They have restored the historic bank barn that was built in the late 1800s. The farm is a licensed creamery producing raw goat milk aged cheeses. Cheese sales by appointment; please phone ahead of time.

Aged goat cheese

6.  Kokoborrego Cheese in Mount Gilead
Lisa Sippel of Kokoborrego Cheese was Ohio’s first licensed farmstead sheep milk producer. She is also producing several artisan cow milk cheeses. Her efforts to become a world-class maker of naturally aged, raw milk cheeses has garnered her the American Cheese Society award for her Owl Creek raw sheep milk cheese. 

The name Kokoborrego comes from the combination of the name of the Kokosing River, which begins in cold springs around the area of the farm, and borrego, a Spanish word for sheep. Put them together, and you get Kokoborrego.

Owl Creek, Headwaters Tomme & Moraine 

7.  Lake Erie Creamery in Cleveland
Mariann had always wanted to be a farmer. As an artisan cheesemaker, she feels that she is at last a part of the farming community—the link between the gifts of the land and the joys of the table. Lake Erie Creamery is a small urban creamery in the city of Cleveland specializing in making artisan goat’s milk cheese. Mariann makes all her small-batch cheeses by hand. Her Blomma took the 2008 Grand Prize for Dairy at the Gallo Family Vineyards Gold Medal Awards!

Blomma, Caerphilly, Fresh Chèvre, Feta, Fromage Blanc, Grana and Tomme

8.  Laurel Valley Creamery in Gallipolis
Celeste is the alpha cow milker, cheesemaker and head cook. She likes frozen coffee, homemade yogurt, lists, little voices and being in charge. She dislikes mud, dishes and matching socks.

Gallaswiss, Cora, Havarti, Jersey Drover, Fresh Cheddar Curds, Country Jack, Cloverton, Cheddar and Aphrocheesiac (a wonderful soft, spreadable snack)

9.  Lucky Penny Creamery in Kent

Abbe treasures the time that she spends both at the creamery and on her farm with her husband, Anderson, along with the children, goats and gardens. She finds this time most centering, meaningful and memorable. She is always seeking balance between life away from and on the farm. Currently Abbe is raising Nubian, La Mancha and Alpine Dairy Goats on her farm in Garrettsville, Ohio. She is making artisan goat and sheep milk cheeses as well as artisan products like caramelized goat milk sauce and goal milk soap.

Chèvre (including one with local honey) and Feta
Feta and Ricotta

10.  Mackenzie Creamery in Hiram
Jean lives on her farm in Hiram, Ohio, with her partner, Jim Zella. Her creamery is located on the farm where Jean produces her award-winning goat cheese. Local. Sustainable. Quality. Healthy. Those four words best describe Jean’s farm and her creamery. Jean’s cheese garnered 10 national awards in her first four years, with two of her cheeses tying at the 2011 American Cheese Society competition, commonly referred to as “the Oscars for cheesemakers”! Mackenzie Creamery also received the 2011 COSE Ten Under 10 Award and the 2011 Portage County Environmental Award for running a green and sustainable business. In addition to an amazing array of chevre flavors, including Sweet Fire, Black Truffle and Wasabi Sesame, she also produced goat milk caramel sauce.

Chèvre in more than a dozen flavors including Sweet Fire, Black Truffle and Wasabi Sesame; Ricotta and Baby Buche (aged)

11.  Mayfield Road Creamery in Orwell
Susan, along with her husband, Kevin, is the fifth generation of Morrises on their farm. In 2007 she and Kevin decided to diversify the farm business. They attended an intense cheesemaking seminar presented by their local OSU extension office taught by world-renowned cheesemaker Peter Dixon of Putney, Vermont. Afterwards, they built their small onsite creamery next to the barn. Susan is the master cheesemaker of their operation. She makes all her specialty raw milk cheeses by hand, with great care, and then ages them with an ever-watchful eye.

Havarti, Gouda (Chipotle, Aged and Smoked), Mayfield Blue, Bloomfield, Siberian Night and Markko Gouda (soaked with Markko Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon grapes)

12.  Ornery Goat Farm in Edinburg
Debbie started with two goats in 2002 for personal use. As the herd grew, she found that cheese was a great way to use all the milk her goats were producing. In 2004 Debbie and her husband, Ed, moved to the property that has now become their very private farmstead nestled in the middle of 51 wooded acres in Edinburg Township, Ravenna, Ohio. Building out the dairy and creamery began in the fall of 2007 and Debbie received her producer and processor licenses from the Ohio Department of Agriculture in 2008, becoming the first licensed Grade A goat milk dairy and creamery in Ohio. Her herd consists of registered Saanen and LaMancha goats. She knows most of them by name—unless they choose to be ‘Ornery.’ Debbie’s cheeses and fudge are made by hand in small batches using only the milk she produces on the farm. She also sells bottled eggnog, goat milk and goat milk soap.

Soft goat cheese, Fresh feta, Marinated fresh feta, Whole milk ricotta and Queso fresco

13.  Osage Lane Creamery in Pataskala
Emma first bought a milking goat because an acquaintance with cancer needed a purer food. Emma started milking “Josie” by tying the goat to a gate because she didn’t have a milking stanchion. “Josie” produced two babies that started Emma on the road to showing goats at 4-H for about 20 years. When Emma heard about a larger herd of goats for sale, she and her husband, Tom, bought it along with all the equipment.

After moving the herd to their farm and building a new barn, the company that had been buying all their milk decided that the shipping distance was too great and the cost too high and they stopped buying. Emma talked to every dairy and creamery she could find on the Internet and by phone, but no one wanted 1,000 to 3,000 pounds of milk a week. That’s when she and Tom decided to build their own cheese plant. “It’s been a wild ride but we love it!” says Emma! Their feta is flavored with everything from blueberries and lemon to cranberries and cinnamon to horseradish and tomatoes.


14.  Star Dancer Creamery in Springfield
Sondra specializes in happy cows who give great milk. At her Grade A dairy, she has Jersey and Jersey/Holstein cows. The name of her dairy evolved over time. Sondra’s first cow came as a month-old calf that her children purchased for her as a surprise gift. The calf’s registered name was “Star Fawn,” which led her to put the word "star" in every cow’s name. When Sondra was deciding on what to call their dairy, Star Dancer seemed to be the perfect name. She did not grow up on a farm and had never milked a cow until her first cow had its first calf. That was the beginning of it all! Her creamery offers cow milk, yogurt and flavored smoothies.

Yogurt cheese upon request

15. Turkeyfoot Creek Creamery in Wauseon
Turkeyfoot Creek Creamery makes their fresh, ripened and aged goat cheeses by hand, using only the milk of their own herd. It is a way of life in which the land, the animals and the cheese manage them. Good fortune has given Jill and her uncle, Del Burkholder, a sense of who they are in relation to a place and the wildness around them, respect for the animals that demand and give so much, and for the exacting craft of cheesemaking.

Their farmstead, artisan cheeses are produced in a state-of-the-art, certified-organic facility in Wauseon, Ohio. They pride themselves in being aware of their “footprint” on the environment, and always embrace sustainable practices on the farm. At Turkeyfoot Creek Creamery, every drop of milk that goes into their cheese is derived from the natural forages that the goats enjoy on the farm. Their Gouda is made in 5- and 10-pound wheels, placed in a brine, coated with wax and placed in a cheese cave to age.

Gouda, Chèvre, Feta and Curds 

16.  Yellow House Cheese in Seville

Yellow House Cheese was the second licensed farmstead sheep milk producer in Ohio. Their sheep milk cheese is made from the milk of their mixed herd of Dorset, Friesian and South African Meat Merino sheep. Their cow milk cheeses are artisan and made with milk from pasture-grazed Jerseys. All of their cheeses are raw milk, small batch, blue cheeses.

Yellow House Cheese was named because they live in a yellow house and make farmstead cheese right there at the house. Simple enough.

Yellow House Blue and Flock’s Choice
King’s Castle and Blue Cow