Editor’s Note: Our Cheese and Chocolate Cuisinternship Winner, Lisa Graff, recently completed her week long adventure in Southern Oregon at Rogue Creamery and Lillie Belle Farms. We’ll be posting her recaps over the next several days. Enjoy!

Day Two: Farmers Market and Dairy Farm

My second day in Oregon was one I was looking forward to the most. First I traveled with Francis and Niels to the local farmers market, where I got to experience what it was like to be a marketeer for a day, from behind the Rogue Creamery booth.

Even though it was still a little overcast, the farmers market was a blast. There were meats and cheeses and vegetables of all sorts, and of course plants and crafts and everything farmers-markety and fun. I was tempted to buy one of everything and try to stuff it all in my suitcase, but I wisely limited myself to a few pots of delicious marionberry jam. And, of course, I had to sample an incredibly scrumptious berry turnover. (I’d already eaten, but the turnover looked so amazing I decided to make like a hobbit and go for second breakfast.)

After the farmer’s market I headed back to the creamery, where I got to experience my first official cheese tasting. Cheese takes several months to age (sometimes years, depending on the cheese), and during that time the cheese is periodically tested to make sure it’s conforming to the creamery’s high standards. One round of cheese from every lot is pulled out and sampled by a table of testers.

We tasted samples of all the cheeses and graded them on a scale of saltiness, sweetness, texture, overall tastiness, and about a billion other things. Shawn Fels, Rogue Creamery’s cheese analyst, explained the fascinating science of the tasting process to us, and I learned how to distinguish all sorts of flavors. The main thing I learned, however, is that my taste buds are not nearly as discerning as the experts’. Cheese tasting turned out to be almost as tricky as the SATs (but much more tasty).

After I was completely stuffed full of cheese, we took a scenic drive out to Grants Pass, where we met up with Delmer Brink, owner of Rogue View Dairy. Delmer gave us a tour of the dairy that I found utterly fascinating. Everything he showed us–from the heating of the pipes to the spreading of manure on the grass–was a lesson in conservation. And the cows! I had never seen so many cows in my life.

Delmer has about 200 cows, a mix of Holstein and Brown Swiss, and they are the sole providers of cow’s milk for all of Rogue Creamery’s cheeses. What really impressed me was how Delmer seemed to know each cow by her personality. It was here that I got to fulfill a lifelong dream of mine–milking a cow! I even got to spend a little quality time with one of the calves, who showed a particular fondness for my fingers.

Next we headed over to visit Huck and Holly Reece, who run the goat dairy next door. If I learned anything about goats, it is that they are quite a bit more feisty than cows.

But they are cute suckers, too, and I got a chance to milk one of them as well. From Brooklyn to goat milking in just two days! Who would have thought?

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