Kickstarters for Food: How You Can Help Lady Long Arm Build a Cheese Cave
Batman may have a bat cave, but Lady Long Arm has a cheese cave.
Or she could, with a little help from people all around the world who are avid consumers of complex, deep-flavored cheeses.
It all started three years ago, when Long Arm Farm opened in Driftless Wisconsin with only two goats, an almost-literal handful of chickens, and one couple with a commitment to living sustainably and leaving behind a healthy, happy legacy for their two kids.
I spoke with Micaela Oherlihy, otherwise known as Lady Long Arm, about her mission to build a deep, dark, dank cave to age her goats' cheese in. Here's what she had to say.
- FoodNRecipe's Anthony Smith: Can you tell me a little bit about your culinary background?
Long Arm Farm's Micaela Oherlihy: I am a broke foodie, so I've had to learn how to grow and make all of the things that I adore but cant afford to buy in the store. Like vegetable pickles and krauts, vinegars, cheeses, mushrooms, pate's, sausages, breads and crackers. I've discovered a real love for cheesemaking in the process.
In my past life I was an artist and filmmaker, which led me to a lot of travel. I pretty much worked in those fields so that I had an excuse to eat weird foods in new places.
AS: What's your mission at Lady Long Arm?
MO: About 6 years ago I lost interest in toiling away in cities making commercials for golf balls and concocting posh rhetoric to justify spending loads of money on ridiculous art projects that didn't mean squat to anyone but myself. I felt the need to do something remarkably beneficial and radical. I decided to become a farmer. So I found this magical little nook in Southwestern Wisconsin's Driftless Region and 3 years ago I started Long Arm Farm.
Long Arm Farm is a very diverse little farm. I aim to stay small, simple, and sustainable while supporting my family by creating value added products. As an artist I have found the same satisfaction in experimenting and fermenting foods as I used to with art making. But these foods are much more tasty than artwork! I also aim to build the infrastructure for my kids to be able to make a living producing food as well, should they choose to do so.
AS: Can you talk about the specifics for which your Kickstarter is raising funds?
MO: The farm is nestled into a north facing sandstone and limestone cliff. There are small pre existing caves already in this cliff but I decided to expand one of them in order to create a functional and efficient cheese cave. I raise and milk a small herd of dairy goats and make cheese with this milk. So far, I've only been able to make fresh cheeses because I didn't have a trustworthy place to age my cheeses. Fresh cheeses pose a number of issues when trying to market them. Namely, they have a very short shelf life and don't ship very well. I'm also a nut for bloomy rinds and aged cheese in general. The farm is pretty isolated so there are not a lot of marketing opportunities within the near vicinity. Most of my neighbors still think goat cheese is weird. Plus most of my supporters are in cities 100 plus miles away.
The aim of the Kickstarter campaign is to raise the funds to finish the cave. We've literally been chipping away at this cave all summer. Eventually we rented a Jackhammer to speed things along and even suckered a neighbor into coming over for a couple of hours with his little skid steer but mostly we've been throwing our backs into it. Now we need to add the costly finishing touches. Like electricity, a roof on the corridor leading into the cave, hinges need to be fabricated for our scrounged freezer door (from a turn of the century sausage factory), a couple of additional doors need to be fabricated as well, fans, flashing, some finishing grout work, shelving and lighting. But most importantly we need to pay the poor stonemason who has been toiling away with us all summer.
AS: How does a cave help the cheese-making process?
MO: Most cheeses are aged and most of these cheeses are aged in refrigerators. Honestly, I think that cheeses that are aged in refrigerators are gross. I can taste Freon in cheese. I can taste the disinfectants that they use to clean the fridges. I want to make natural cheeses in a natural environment.
A cave will enable me to break out of the chevre bubble. Chevre is an un-aged fresh cheese. Don't get me wrong, I love chevre, but I also love tomme, Manchego, and Murcia al vino. A cave will enable me to make my own version of these cheeses. I am also dedicated to raw milk cheeses, which legally in Wisconsin must be aged at least 60 days.
AS: Why is Wisconsin the cheese-making capital of the United States?
MO: Wisconsin makes a whole lot of commodity cheese. Wisconsin's plants also ship an enormous amount of cheese to aging facilities all over the country. Wisconsin is very well suited to be the cheese capital as its pastures are very lush (we have water!), we grow all of our own feed, and we can ship left, right, up and down.. (California can only ship right).
AS: Of all the cheeses from Lady Long Arm, which one is your favorite?
MO: So far my favorite fresh cheese is a raw milk chevre rolled in fresh lemon balm, peppermint and sage. But I am extremely excited to make (in my cave) a version of Murcia al Vino, made with black currant wine, in collaboration with a winemaking friend from Beyond Vineyard.
AS: How have you been advertising your Kickstarter?
MO: I launched it a few days ago and it will be up for 30 days. I don't want to drive my friends and family nuts so I am trying to pace myself. So far my blog and Facebook are the only places that I have posted it.
To learn more about Long Arm Farm and see how you can get involves, click here to see Lady Long Arm's amazing Kickstarter!
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