From “seed-to-cheese,” Ferndale Farmstead is conquering every step of making artisan Italian cheese, and it all happens on the Ferndale farm. The 680 cows that produce the milk for the cheese are all fed by crops grown on the Ferndale land. Twice a day, those same cows are milked, and their milk is sent to the cheese production facility just a few yards away. Then, a small team creates, packages, and ships the award-winning cheeses throughout the region. This “seed-to-cheese” process is not only sustainable, but it allows for full control of each step, cheesemaker Daniel Wavrin said, “You’re tasting Ferndale when you taste our cheese.”
Beyond the closed-loop system, particular to Ferndale Farmstead is the authentic Italian process. Cheese consists of just four ingredients: salt, enzymes, milk, and cultures. And, while that may sound simple, such a short list of ingredients makes each one that much more important. While the majority of commercial cheeses use vinegar or a like acid to replace the use of cultures, Ferndale Farmstead cheese adheres to old principles of cheese making by using Italian cultures rather than vinegar. “We wanted to fill a gap in the market and nobody on the West Coast was really doing this,” Wavrin said. Thanks to a connection to the Italian old country, Wavrin and the team receive cultures straight from Italy to create their artisan cheeses.
Wavrin is a third-generation farmer who grew up on an Eastern Washington dairy farm. It wasn’t until attending the California Polytechnic State University that he became interested in artisan cheese. He remembered visiting the grocery store in California and stumbling across an English cheddar cheese. “I grew up on the orange sharp Tillamook cheddar, and this was nothing like that,” he said. The white, aged cheddar changed his whole outlook of cheese and spurred a curiosity for the process. While many of his friends were brewing beer, Wavrin took on another fermentation process, cheese. And, after finishing college, Wavrin paired up with the family farm to expand their reach into the artisan cheese market. The team visited 40 cheese-making facilities across the nation to learn about the process before breaking ground on construction of the Ferndale property in 2013.
And, just a few years later, Ferndale Farmstead has already been awarded multiple American Cheese Society awards. In 2017, their Scamorza, Asiago Pressa, and Caciotta all placed in taste competition. But Wavrin said it is their fresh Mozzarella that really excites him. “We have a big opportunity with our mozzarella. People don’t really buy it for its flavor alone and we want to change that,” he said. Customers who try Ferndale Farmstead mozzarella will notice it has lower moisture than what they may be used to, which allows the fresh-milk flavor to stand out. Wavrin personally prefers an aged cheese over fresh, like their Fontina or Asiago Pressa. Ferndale Farmstead cheese can be found at the Community Food Co-op, Haggen, Whole Foods, other local retailers as well as the Bellingham Farmers Market.