BERLIN – Chesapeake Bay Farm cheese all began when the Hollands had the tasty treat made for family and friends one recent Christmas.
Cheese was not the Hollands’ first thought when low milk prices prompted them to explore additional sources of income.
“The milk prices were so low for so long, we thought we’ve got to do something else, either sell out or do something else to make an income,” said Linda Holland. “We knew entertainment farming was really big.”
Drainage at the Hollands’ Pocomoke area dairy farm could not handle the required commercial restroom, however, so the family decided to sell cheese instead.
“We were definitely going to do cheese because the year before we had cheese made as Christmas presents and everyone loved the cheese so much,” Holland said.
Worcester County’s only cheese producer, an outgrowth of the only dairy farm in the county, is now heading into its third year.
The Hollands originally could not find any available retail stand space on or near Route 113 in northern Worcester County. Then a produce stand, two and a half miles west of Berlin along Route 50, came to their attention.
Chesapeake Bay Farm opened up the site, selling cheese and ice cream, in August 2005.
“We thought you’ve got to have ice cream in Ocean City in the summer,” Holland said.
Holland, who has a degree in education from Salisbury State Teachers College, wants to use the stand to educate people and particularly children who have never had any contact with a farm animal.
“We’re starting out with calves this year and we’ll have goats this summer,” Holland said.
She herself was born to a Carroll County dairy farmer and met husband Ken, a Crisfield native, during her college days at what is now Salisbury University.
“My father was a diary farmer and I said I’d never marry a dairy farmer. Never say never,” she said. “I’ve milked cows, fed calves, chased bulls, as our whole family has.”
The operation is truly a family concern. Their son, Dan, grew up on the family farm and his wife Laura is the daughter of a Somerset County extension agent. Ken and Dan handle farm operations and Dan purchases the seafood, Holland said. Laura is the marketing genius behind the slogan, “Support Local Cows.”
Both the ice cream and cheese are made from milk produced at the Pocomoke farm, which has 100 head of milk cows, and another 100 head of replacement stock on about 400 acres. The Hollands also grow their own corn and some hay.
The cows are kept in the open air, free pasture and free range, and the milk does not contain added growth hormones, antibiotics, or chemicals, and it’s all grade A.
“The same quality of milk they put in jugs is the same quality we put in cheese,” Holland said.
Chesapeake Bay Farm offers an extensive array of cheeses, from classics like aged cheddar and mozzarella to Old Bay cheese. Spreadable cheeses include bacon, smoked horseradish and even chocolate cheese, an experiment, Holland said, which some people quite liked.
Every few months the Hollands ship 12,000 pounds of milk to their Amish cheesemaker in Pennsylvnia.
Their ice cream, also made in Pennsylvania, includes chocolate insanity, butter pecan and peach.
Last summer, the stand added seafood, which is popular. Holland urged people to call ahead and reserve what they want to ensure availability.
“We can sell right out of crabs, like that,” Holland said. “It’s [also] very hard to keep fish in.”
All crabs are caught locally, and all fish is from United States waters.
In the future, the Holland family hopes to sell whole milk, pasteurized but unhomogenized, the old fashioned practice that allows the cream to rise to the top. They would also like to add butter and are thinking about adding home delivery of all products.
Holland joked that you can buy a whole meal at the Chesapeake Bay Farm stand, with cheese as an appetizer, fish or shellfish for the main dish, and ice cream for dessert.