I was at an event in Fall City where the farm is located and I stopped dead in my tracks. “This lady is a farmer?” I asked myself.
No doubt, a common refrain for many people who know the cheese, before the woman. Standing in front of Julie, you feel that she is a force of nature: If she can visualize it, it’s going to happen, just you wait and see. In fact, she went from Southern Belle to highly successful corporate executive and since 2005 she and her family are living out her greatest passion: life as cheese producers and farm ownership.
Soon afterwards, I made it a point to go visit Julie in her natural habitat, River Valley Ranch, where she lives with her husband Rob, their blended families and goats, cows, yaks and a temperamental water buffalo. What started as an extreme love of cooking and sourcing the very best ingredients for baking her killer cheesecake, for example: resulted in her and her family trading in their comfortable suburban existence for life on a farm 26 miles east of Seattle. Her intent was originally not to own livestock, but buying raw milk was cost prohibitive in the long run, so the menagerie became necessary.
Visiting River Valley Ranch is possible and encouraged, (so much fun!) River Valley gives tours to school kids, and other interested groups. They present monthly, weekend classes in the art of making cheese, the way Julie puts it: “We learned by trial and (lots of) error, our classes are a great way for us to impart our love of making cheese and our hard won understanding of the process.”
gouda aged 3-4 monthsThe classes always sell out. I am finally attending a class on June 4th, for which there is still availability, as of this writing. In this class, attendees will be making mozzarella & gouda at a cost of $125 a person. There are a number of future dates, which feature Camembert, one of my all time favorite cheeses. November 19th, for example focuses on holiday cheeses. You can also purchase the cheese at Whole Foods and PCC.
Wearing rubber boots and a jacket will be in order, no matter what the weather brings, the farm and its out buildings are muddy, wet and cool. In addition, with cheeses with names like Naughty Nellie, Valley Girl, Silly Billy, that reflect an acute sense of humor, students are in for a fun, educational and tasty four hours for these Saturdays on the River Valley Ranch .
River Valley Class schedule.