Steve and Veronica Baetje have been making cheese at Baetje Farms in the foothills of the Ozarks since 2006. The Batjes keep a large herd of Saanen dairy goats, and along with six employees produce cheeses from March to November, selling them largely in the metropolitan St. Louis area.
Steve and Veronica wake up at 3 am each day to milk their 53 goats, and spend the rest of the day turning that milk into cheese. Goats receive an unlimited supply of filtered spring water to drink from the farm’s spring, and their diet—an all-natural antibiotic-free whole grain ration—is supplemented with organic herbal teas, organic mineral supplements, locally grown alfalfa hay, and the farm’s pasture. The milking season begins in spring and ends in winter, giving the goats a break for several months a year.
Made from sheep and goat’s milk, Fleur de la Vallee is a semi-soft cheese with a washed rind. In making the cheese, curd is cut and lightly pressed, rounds are brined, and then washed, turned, and flipped on racks for at least four weeks.