When I got the invitation from my friend Alma Schneider to visit Bobolink Dairy & Bakehouse over Memorial Day Weekend, I was not initially sold on the idea. I’m not a particularly ‘outdoorsy’ kind of gal, especially when the temperature pushes past a balmy seventy-nine degrees. As my husband reminded me, “You like the ‘farm to table experience.’ You just prefer the ‘table’ part, especially if it’s in cool and comfortable atmospheric setting… and if it ends with chocolate.”
Alma (who, by the way, is one fabulous Montclair lady and if you don’t know her – you should), sent the invite to all the members of our weekly group for parents of children who have special needs. There, nestled in Alma’s comfortable, temperature-controlled kitchen, we partake of her delicious eats, share resources, commiserate in each other’s stories and bask in the company of other parents in similar special needs situations. Though I don’t get to go as often as I’d like, I always breathe easier after I leave.
The invite, though, promised a tour of a working farm (she almost lost me right there) where all of our kids could meet and we could taste the farm’s fresh cheeses and homemade breads. A chance to gorge myself on (I mean sample) farm-fresh foods and introduce my older daughter to new friends? Sounds good. And I knew my youngest, who is still awed by her own ability to walk, would love seeing the animals that we read about at home. Despite the threat of spending a day in the hot sun, I replied with an enthusiastic, “We’re in!”
And I’m glad I did. Bobolink Dairy & Bakehouse is located in the very beautiful and scenic setting of Milford, NJ. And the farm, I learned, has an interesting back-story.
Husband and wife team, Jonathan and Nina White, moved from NYC to Northern Westchester County after their first child was born. There, Jonathan met David Amram (of the ‘beat-generation’ writers) who was looking to unload some goat’s milk… and this is where Jonathan’s cheese-making hobby began. In 2002, they sold their home and rented a farm in NJ in pursuit of producing 100% grassfed milk for their cheese. They invested their home equity in cows and as Jonathan explains, “our equity had babies.” In 2010, they bought the 185 acre farm where they are now. Today, they share the farm with approximately 100 cows, 100 chickens, eight pigs, two dogs and two cats.
Like a proud papa, Jonathan explains, “Our bread and cheese share a common thread: we strive to work with Mother Nature, not in spite of her. So, we raise our cows as they evolved, eating just grasses and no grain. Our cheese making is patterned on the traditional methods of the past millennium: we make cheese daily from that day’s milk, without cooling or heat-treatment. We use natural fermentation. Likewise, our breads are made from heritage grains. Our wheat is all traditional tall wheat. We ferment our dough using, beneficial bacteria and yeasts, allowing them to ferment slowly, and we then bake them in our huge wood-fired bread oven.”
The end result of this obvious labor of love is, in a word, delicious. Dorian Fischer, who has apprenticed at Bobolink for the past year, led me through a very informative cheese and bread tasting, explaining how each bread and cheese was made and the flavor profile. It was hard to narrow down which ones to buy for home, but my husband made the final decision, cheddar and a petite rye baguette. Yum.
Judging from the kids’ smiling faces and all the bread and cheese filled bags that the parents loaded into their cars before leaving, I would consider the Bobolink tour a success (even though I did almost break a sweat). One father commented how nice it was to see so many kids of varying abilities come together to enjoy a common experience. And another mom said, “I really like the vibe here. It’s a great place.”
Nina and Jonathan created such a wholesome, interesting and inviting place to visit with our families… of all kinds.
Bobolink Dairy & Bakehouse
369 Stamets Road, Milford,NJ 08848
Farm tours take place Saturday and Sunday afternoons year ’round, weather permitting, cost $5 per person, and can be reserved online