EDITOR'S NOTE: Farmers Market Fresh is a weekly series featuring farmers and food producers who sell at South Sound farmers markets. Each week in this space, we'll write about a different farmer and the markets where they sell.
What's at the market this week: A variety of fresh and aged cheeses, including fresh mozzarella, chevre and ricotta, from the River Valley Ranch Cheese Farm in Fall City. Available Saturday at the Proctor Farmers Market, open 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays at North 27th Street and Proctor; 253-961-3666; www.proctorfarmersmarket.com.
Who's the farmer: Julie Steil started her 20-acre Fall City farm in 2006. Before that, her cheesemaking was a hobby. But then a cheese buyer from Whole Foods tasted her homemade cheese at a parent-teacher meeting at the high school Steil's children attend. With encouragement from the buyer, she ditched her high-pressure career in real estate property management, bought some cows and goats, purchased some land by her home and started River Valley Ranch Cheese Farm.
More about the farm: Steil's farm is a small-scale operation that she calls a "vertically integrated" dairy. That means nothing goes to waste. The whey from the cheese is fed to the herds as a probiotic, the manure from the herds is donated to local farmers, and the herd is even fed spent barley from Pike Brewery.
About the herd: In researching cows, Steil said she "fell in love with Brown Swiss cows. I realized that 95 percent of dairy cows are Holstein. So I said I wanted Brown Swiss cows. That's where tomme-style cheese in the Swiss Alps region comes from." Today, she has seven cows. She also has grown her goat herd to 96 goats from six breeds.
Favorite cheeses: Steil makes 21 cheeses. Steil talks lovingly of a goat tomme called Valley Doe that is aged for four months. "Our goats graze on 10 acres of blackberry thickets. When we filter the milk, you can smell the fruit," she said. She also makes a cheese called BoVino that is washed with a cabernet wine from Woodinville Winery Novelty Hill. Another favorite is Naughty Nellie cheese, a cheese washed with ale from the Pike Brewery. Rancher Rob's pepperjack is another favorite. She uses large, chunky peppers to flavor the cheese.
Contact the farmer: 425-222-5277 or www.rivervalleycheese.com.
What else is fresh at the market this week: Oysters; smoked salmon; pasture-raised chicken, beef, pork; plants for your garden including veggie starts, herbs, salad bowls, perennials, annuals, edible landscaping, trees, hanging baskets and house plants; fresh-cut flowers; ready-to-eat foods; honey; fresh pasta; and limited produce.
Where's the produce? Jessica Troy, Proctor Farmers Market manager, said, "At the farmers market, farmers sell what they grow. It's been a cold spring so our vegetables have been growing slowly. As the season goes on, we'll have more and more produce, with asparagus arriving in early May. We've been happy to have greens at the market: kale, green onions, leeks, cilantro, with more coming every week."
Events at Proctor this week: Folk music from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. by Steve and Kristi Neble. The Meyers Family will play bluegrass music from noon to 2 p.m. From 11:15 to 11:45 a.m., experts will discuss how to raise chickens. Kids can keep busy at the children's activity booth.
For a list of farmers markets, click here.
River Valley Cheesecake
20 ounces cream cheese, softened (2