Cherry Valley Dairy, an 80-year-old farmstead in Duvall, Wash., north of Seattle was purchased in 2005 by Gretchen Garth.
She turned the 122 acres into an all-natural, grass-based dairy and creamery employing two dairy workers and three creamery employees.
Blain Hages has been the head cheesemaker since the operation opened, AnnMarie Stickney is the land manager, Jhony Padilla is the herdsman, Meghan McKenna is the assistant cheesemaker and Brianna Best is in charge of sales and marketing.
“Our dairy is unique,” says Best. “The owner cares greatly about the land, the environment and the cattle, so we have a land manager and a herd manager. We have a herd of Jerseys with 30 milking cows as well as about 20 heifers.”
Most of the milk is processed in their on-farm creamery and sold as butter.
“We do cultured European-style butter, both gray salt and unsalted varieties. Our unsalted butter won first place in the 2018 American Cheese Society awards and our Grey Salt butter was second place. Our lavender rose butter also got first place,” she says.
“We recently started making raw cheeses along with several pasteurized cheeses such as Fromage Blanc, a soft spreadable cheese made from our fresh skim milk and fresh Jersey cream. We also make many other styles of cheese as well.”
The butter and cheeses are sold directly to customers, mainly at restaurants in Seattle.
“That’s my job. I work with all our customers and chefs to deliver these products every week. We’ve also started selling to one of the largest natural food stores in the area, called PCC Community Market,” Best says.
“We’ve done a lot of work revitalizing pastures on this historic farm, and remodeled the old barn on the property. A creek runs through our pastures and we’ve done a lot of work with one of the local Native American first nation tribes as well as our county to protect this creek and now our farm is listed as salmon safe, and the salmon have returned to this creek,” she says.
The cows are pastured most of the year, but housed in the barn during winter when it’s too wet to be out on pasture.
“This has been a working farm for 87 years and it used to have 200 to 300 cows. The barn is huge so there is ample room for our small herd to be indoors during bad weather. When the cows are not on pasture they are fed alfalfa and oat hay,” she says.
This is a sustainable grass-fed dairy, with select genetics for cows that do well on pasture. The Jersey cows in this herd lean toward A2 genetics. A2 milk is produced only from cows having two copies of the A2 gene for beta casein.
Research found that people drinking milk from cows producing A2 milk were less susceptible to indigestion.
As part of the new owner’s sustainability efforts over the past decade, the herd has been reduced to fewer than 50 Jersey cows.
“This allows us to produce all the cheese and dairy products we make in-house,” says Best.
Cherry Valley Dairy does not use bovine growth hormones, and strives to keep the cows’ diets natural and free of unnecessary antibiotics, artificial additives and harmful chemicals.