To say farming runs in Sarah Van Orden’s blood would be an understatement. The 12th generation farmer grew up on her family’s farm in Catskill, N.Y. before moving to the Finger Lakes. After graduating from Cornell University, she started her own farm in Ovid, about 30 miles northeast of Ithaca.
At first, Van Orden named the farm Vanillen Dairy, but changed the name to Crosswinds Farm & Creamery in 2014 to better reflect the farm, as well as the location. The farm is located at a gusty high point between Cayuga and Seneca Lakes.
The cheese at Crosswinds Farm & Creamery starts with milk from Brown Swiss cows. Brown Swiss cows produce milk with lower somatic cell count, beneficial for high-quality cheese. The farm’s original cheese is the Morning Glory, an un-aged, fromage blanc-style cheese.
The cheese resembles a soft chevre, but without the classic goat’s milk funk. The spreadable cheese is tangy, light and fresh-tasting, with just a hint of lemon. Van Orden also makes maple and chive flavored versions.
The Butternut Baby Swiss is based on a classic Alpine recipe, but there’s nothing traditional about the taste, said Carly Thomasset, manager of marketing and sales for the farm. After three months of aging, the cheese is nutty, light and bursting with the flavors of the Finger Lakes terroir, with just a bit of sweetness. Take the same cheese and age it for another nine months and you’ll end up with “a whole new animal,” Thomasset said.
Rose’s Reserve is aged for one year. At that age, the lacey holes that dotted the Butternut Baby Swiss are mostly gone. In its place are tyrosine crystals, the crunchy, delicious bits found in many aged cheeses. The deep yellow, almost gold-colored cheese has strong notes of dried fruit, caramel and toasted nuts. “It almost like parmesan and gruyere had a baby,” Thomasset said.
Just like all the cheeses at Crosswinds Farm & Creamery, Goblin is named after a cow on the farm. It’s only produced a few times a year and customers are quick to snatch it up as quickly as they can. Goblin is smooth and silky, but with a pleasant twang of funk, akin to a Challerhocker or Scharfe Maxx.
Van Orden likes to keep much of the work in-house. The cows are put on pasture to graze during the summer and much of the hay they’re fed during the winter is grown on the farm. She also handles the diets, vaccinations and medical treatments for all the livestock.
It’s all part of Van Orden’s goal to help build a local economy and give people access to good food. They sell the cheeses, along with grass-fed beef, pork and eggs, at farmers markets and retail stores across the Finger Lakes and the Catskills.
“She has a work ethic,” Thomasset said, “the likes of which I’ve never seen in my life.”