Story by Mandi Tompkins
Photographs by Jenn Bakos
Spring is a time of rebirth, a time of vital importance to farmers around New England. For the Kennebec Cheesery it means the start of the milking cycle, and even more importantly for cheese-lovers, the start to the cheese-making cycle. Early each spring when the weather begins to turn warm and the last patches of ice melt away, new babies are born across our region. At Kennebec they welcome the new kids, and begin their annual journey from farm to table.
Kennebec Cheesery at Koons Farm is based in Sidney, Maine, an area with deep agricultural roots, and for the Koons family, deep ancestral roots. Built in 1796, the farm is one of the oldest in the area, and was cultivated by local dairy farmers for centuries. The Koons family, all experienced farmers, bought the land 47 years ago. The farm raises both Alpine and Saanen goats, all pasture fed and GMO-free. Each spring when the kidding season begins, so begins the milking and the creation of cheese. When the kids are born they nurse for about a week, and are then moved to bottle-feeding. At times this twice daily feeding can be daunting, so the Koons’ created a more efficient means of feeding – a metal bucket with multiple nipples for co-feeding. The two kids we were lucky enough to meet were born in mid-April and were still bottle-feeding. They will take up to two years to fully mature.
Goat milking is a seasonal affair. Milking begins at the end of April and can continue through the end of December. However, the milk changes throughout the year based on the amount of light the goats are exposed to and what they eat. The highest producers of milk are the three to four year old goats, but they will begin milking goats at one to two years to get them used to the process. Towards the end of December the volume drops off and the farm takes a much-deserved break from January through March.
Kennebec produces a number of cheeses including fresh chevre, feta, an aged alpine style cheese, and an aged alpine style cheese made from cow’s milk. The most popular cheese year after year is the fresh chevre, which comes in herb rolled rounds and cubes soaked in extra virgin olive oil. They have curated their spice selections to suit every taste, including Herbes de Provence, dill, cracked peppercorn, basil, pine nut and garlic, and sun dried tomato and chili pepper.
The cheesery sells their handcrafted cheeses across the state of Maine, including farmers markets and retail shops. They also partner with Tao Yuan, a unique Asian fusion restaurant in Brunswick that’s committed to using fresh, local ingredients. In the future, the Koons family hopes to open an online store so they can share their delicious creations all over the country.
Where to Buy Kennebec Cheesery Products:
Portland Farmers’ Market
Downtown Waterville Farmers’ Market
Aurora Provisions – Portland, Maine
Barrels Market – Waterville, Maine
The Cheese Iron – Scarborough, Maine
The Apple Farm – Manchester, Maine
Riverside Farm Market & Café – Oakland, Maine
Uncle Dean’s Good Groceries – Waterville, Maine