Heather and Jon Franklin arrived in Schoharie County from New York City with a goal: to create the world’s first Manchego cheese made exclusively from goat’s milk. With the goats in place, the dream took the form of a hobby. After several years raising and milking goats, the duo decided to commercialize. In 2011, the Franklin’s launched Cotton Hill Creamery. The business sells homemade cheeses, milk, and yogurt, with products available on a seasonal basis on SchoharieFresh.com.
“Thank goodness for YouTube,” says Jon Franklin, on the transition from raising French-Alpine goats to pasteurizing, processing, and marketing dairy products. “Cotton Hill has all grown organically, but it was an adjustment.”
Caring for goats is a year-round endeavor, despite goats typically not producing milk in the winter months. For the Franklins, the lack of fresh milk has been a boon to business.
“We have been able to conduct experiments with aging cheese in and out of brine,” says Franklin. “We have learned goat’s feta in brine has an excellent shelf life; we have come to the realization that freezing fresh, unsalted curds that have not had flavor added freeze really well.”
The Franklin’s first product to hit the market was chevre, or goat’s cheese. Innovation has led the pair to create feta and, more recently, Tomme – the Franklin’s first attempt at hard cheese – which has taken two years to perfect.
“The experiments feed the pigs quite well,” says Franklin. Additionally, Cotton Hill Creamery grows much of its own produce, including herbs, tomatoes, and cucumbers, which flavor its cheeses. Another business with products available on SchoharieFresh.com, Wellington’s Herbs and Spices, supplies Cotton Hill Creamery with additional herbs and seasonings.
Feature photo: Jon Franklin says he cannot overstate the transition from hobby-farming to commercialization.