Natural Home Earth Mover: Mary and Dave Falk

Award-winning Wisconsin cheesemakers mentor their neighbors and help keep small farms afloat.

| May/June 2006

  • Photo by Rick Mooney

On their 200-acre organic LoveTree Farmstead in Northern Wisconsin’s Trade Lake region, Mary and Dave Falk create sheep’s-milk cheeses so delicious they win a following wherever they’re served. The Falks have earned more than a dozen awards for their cheeses—made from organic milk from their own specially bred sheep—including the American Cheese Society’s prestigious best-of-show prize. In 2002, Bon Appétit magazine named the couple “Food Artisans of the Year.”

Eager to share their successes, the Falks have been working to preserve small farms in northern Wisconsin. “Small-scale dairy farming and farmstead cheesemaking are respectable trades,” Mary says. “They ought to be financially viable, too.”

It isn’t easy being a dairy farmer these days, Mary explains. “No matter what kind of animal you’re milking, milk prices are volatile. Farmers are fine so long as there’s a tight supply of milk, but when there’s a surplus, we go broke.”

In fact, it was low milk prices first led the Falks into cheesemaking, because it allows them to take a “value-added” approach to their milk sales. “By keeping the milk on the farm and turning it into cheese, we were able to increase its value per gallon significantly,” Mary says. “This allowed us to stay in business—and keep the farm. If we were selling fluid, bulk milk to the local co-op, we’d be earning a lot less per gallon.”

The Falks are innovators. They’ve bred sheep that can survive Northern Wisconsin’s harsh climate, thrive on a diet of grasses rather than grain and produce the high-butterfat milk that gives LoveTree cheeses their complex flavors.

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