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Home » Farm Profiles, Grafton County (Plymouth/Hanover/Littleton Region), Landaff

Springvale Farms / Landaff Creamery, Landaff, NH

By Helen Brody

In the 1950s Dr. and Mrs. Frederick Erb purchased the land of several small neighboring farms in Landaff, New Hampshire, a small town in the northwestern part of the state. Frederick, a veterinarian, attached a clinic to his house and raised Holstein dairy cattle with his young son Doug as a helper.

erbcows41By the 1980s, Doug had graduated from the University of New Hampshire Whittemore School of Business and Economics, had married his father’s veterinary technician, Debby Scott, and they were ready to strike out on their own. Both Doug and Debby had dairy farming in their family blood, so when a house next to the senior Erb home became available, the young couple purchased it, and not too long after, bought the cows and equipment as well.

Today Debby and Doug have 100 Holsteins, give or take a calf here or there, and over the years have made improvements in the genetics of their herd and invested in up to date machinery. Growing up, their children showed the Holsteins at 4-H competitions and won many prizes.
Springvale Farms is 400 acres on which they pasture their cattle, grow corn, and have a 110-acre woodlot of primarily white pine. “If I could make a living, I would do only the woodlot,” Doug said while taking a break from his fence-building chore of the day. It was spring and the cows were itching to be released into the pasture from the barn where they had been all winter.

“At one time in Landaff,” he went on, “there were eight to ten dairy farms. Now we are the only one. It is not that people are giving up farming,”
he continued, “folks are going into new types of agriculture. For example, there’s an alpaca farm down the road.”

Doug and Debby are going in a new direction as well. In 2006, seeing a bleak future for fluid milk prices, they began investigating putting part of their milk into cheese. They put together a business plan for what was to be called the Landaff Creamery. Agri-Mark picks up 10,000 gallons of milk from Springvale Farms every other day, so as a starter they decided to begin small by allotting 1,800 pounds of fresh milk per week for cheese. They are now using 5,000 pounds per week for cheese. In 2006 he began taking cheese-making classes through the Vermont Institute of Artisan Cheese at the University of Vermont and became a Certified Cheesemaker

cheese-drying-12While Doug and Debby were struggling with what kind of cheese to make, Mateo Kehler of Jasper Hill Farm in Vermont introduced them to an English cheesemaker who had brought a wedge of his cheese with him for tasting. “His wedge was a little tired from travel,” says Doug, but he and Debby loved it. So off to Somerset England Doug went to learn the secrets of the Welsh methods. One unexpected problem was coming to grips with the King’s English; the brogue was thick, so much so that Doug felt he was confronting words that were undecipherable. “But everyone was patient – and I saw my first badger!” After being taught the intricacies of cheese making and visiting stores to see how cheese was marketed, Doug arrived home, brim full of new knowledge and a recipe in hand.

As Doug’s father had retired, his veterinary clinic was going unused so Doug and Debby, under the watchful eye of milk inspectors and a local contractor turned the space into a pristine creamery, but not just any old creamery; they included a viewing hall, and neighbor Becky McGovern, who has a genuine touch as an artist, produced paintings of Holsteins that peer out with startling vividness at visitors. Photographs of the creamery with signs explain the intricacies of cheese making.

But before Doug and Debby could indulge in the esoteric, they had to actually construct the creamery and buy the equipment. One of their first discoveries was that much of what they needed was not available in the United States. A farmstead cheese is one that is actually made on the same farm where the animals are milked. “In England and France consumers are much more in tune and appreciative of farmstead cheeses,” said Doug, “so equipment for making small quantities of cheese is more easily obtained.”

After a year of tearing out walls and cabinets and waiting for equipment to arrive from Europe, the Erbs were ready to begin making cheese. Twice a week beginning at 5:00 am and ending around 8:00 pm, the Erbs are making their Welsh style cheese, forming it into rounds in their French micro-perforated forms, and moving it by refrigerated truck to the specially designed caves at The Cellars at Jasper Hill Farm where it is aged for the legally required 60 days before shipping to stores through out New England and the country. “It’s been a huge investment,” Doug said, “far more than we thought.” To recoup their investment, they set an imposing goal of churning out 30,000 pounds of cheese per year.
What the first wheels yielded was tangy, creamy, and robust, and if early comments are a harbinger of what’s to come, Doug and Debby Erb have a delicious product on their hands.

Springvale Farms/Landaff Creamery
Doug and Debby Erb
546 Mill Brook Rd
Landaff, NH 03585
Phone/fax: 603-838-5560
www.landaffcreamery.com

Retail Cheese: (Direct to customer sales)

Farmstore
Website

Wholesale Cheese: (Bulk sales to markets, restaurants, & stores)

Markets:
Brick Store, Bath, NH.
Hanover/Lebanon Co-ops NH
Whole Foods

Restaurants: (*certified by NH Farm to Restaurant Connection www.nhfarmtorestaurant.com)
*Cotton Restaurant, Manchester, NH

 

 

 

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Published on: May 5, 2009 Last modified on: May 12, 2016


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