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At Willapa Hills Farmstead, the cheese stands alone
The cheese-making team at Willapa Hills Farmstead encompasses three generations of family, 160 sheep, 150 cows (from a neighboring dairy) and one chocolate Lab puppy that oversees everything. Husband and wife Stephen Hueffed and Amy Turnbull purchased the 146-acre farm on the Chehalis River in southwest Washington in 2005. They expect to produce 30,000 pounds of cheese in 10 varieties this year—every ounce of it by hand.
“We farm in a way that’s good for the environment and I think that’s where the quality comes from,” says Turnbull, who believes consumers increasingly want to know where their food comes from, how it’s made and how animals are treated in the process. No pesticides are used on Willapa Hills land, and any ingredients other than sheep’s and cow’s milk are purchased locally whenever possible. “The cheese speaks for itself,” Turnbull says—an assertion particularly evident in the farm’s range of blue cheeses. From the milder Little Boy Blue (liked even by blue-cheese skeptics) to the full-bodied Two-Faced Blue (for diehards), Turnbull and Hueffed strive to have something for everyone.
Turnbull and Hueffed wake at dawn to milk sheep, and their school-age children often can be found bottle-feeding the lambs. With beaming faces, the kids also grace some of the Willapa Hills cheese labels. Their parents hope it’s a reminder that good food can bring families together—on the farm and at the dinner table.
Find Willapa Hills cheeses ($12–28/pound) at the Pike Place Market and nearly a dozen Washington and Oregon farmers’ markets, in stores such as PCC and The Cheese Cellar, and at restaurants such as Dahlia Lounge and Stumbling Goat Bistro. For more info 206.612.6253 willapahills.com
Originally published in May 2010