LITTLE COMPTON — On a century-old farm, Laura Haverland and Andrew Morley are forging a new era, producing cheeses and yogurt using milk from the farm’s cows and sustainable farming practices.
It all started back in 2011 when self-described “city slickers” Laura Haverland and Andrew Morley moved from New York City to Little Compton to start Sweet & Salty Farm.
Before that, though, Morley got a taste of the business by working on a dairy farm and with cheese-makers in preparation for taking on the major life change. Haverland worked in food marketing in New York City.
The property, “Whinshaw,” is still owned by the Wildes family, descendents of the founders of the dairy farm that dates back at least a century.
“They have big hearts and they were willing to give us a chance,” said Morley.
It took Haverland and Morley about two-and-a-half years to get the farm up and running and to procure all the necessary licenses. The farm’s cows gave birth to their first calves in January 2014, thus beginning milk production. Their first batch of cheeses came along a few months later in the summer of 2014, Haverland and Morley said.
After starting out with nine cows, they now have 30 Jersey cows, 24 of which should be giving birth within the next month. Once they start milking the cows, their cheese-making season begins for another year, said Haverland.
Morley said he learned the basics of the cheese-making process from Meadow Creek Dairy in Virginia and Twig Farm in Vermont.
“But that was the basics. It took a lot of trial and error to get things right,” he said. As fortune would have it, Glenn Sherman, an experienced cheese maker, moved to the area and wanted to work with Haverland and Morley.
“She has a ton of experience, especially with soft cheeses, so that has been a great collaboration,” added Morley.
They make about 10 cheeses – some harder cheeses and some softer, fresher cheeses, they said.
The soft, young cheeses age about two weeks and the harder cheeses age for up to a year.
“Although our cheese-making season is from late March to December, we’re able to stagger the aging process so we still have cheese this time of year even though we’re not making anything,” said Haverland.
This time of year, they sell the cheese at the Wintertime Market in Providence every Saturday. In the summer, they’re at the Hope Street Farmers Market in Providence. They also sell at a summer farmer’s market in Plymouth and at a farmstand at Sweet & Salty farm from May to October. Several noted restaurants in Southern New England also purchase their cheeses, including Little Moss in Dartmouth and New Rivers, The East End and Oberlin in Providence.
During the season, they also make yogurt, which is for sale at area markets such as Lees in Westport.
The biggest learning curve in starting the farm, they said, somewhat jokingly, was “everything.”
“There are some in the cheese-making world in America who buy the milk and some who have the animals and produce the milk. “We are trying to squeeze all of that into the day,” said Haverland.
They’re also trying to go to the next level with the dairy operation. Their cows are out on pasture every day possible during the grazing season, so Haverland and Morley are managing the cows in a way that’s supportive to responsible land management.
“Environmental management has been our guiding point so May through December they’re out in the pasture and we’re moving them multiple times during the day to keep the balance between cows and grass growth,” said Morley.
All that extra care in how Haverland and Morley farm translates into the flavors of their products. “The cows’ diet makes a huge difference in the flavor of the milk,” said Haverland. “They get to basically choose what they’re eating and it’s amazing to watch. They’re choosing the grasses and the things that look like weeds and they’re eating the flowers off the trees and the shrubs and the hedges. So their milk has this amazing complexity of flavors and that’s great for the cheese.”
Pretty Penny, a soft, slightly stinky washed rind cheese is Haverland’s favorite. “It’s got this perfect squeezy texture that melts in your mouth with just the right of funkiness,” Haverland said.
Morley said choosing a favorite cheese was a bit like asking a parent to select a favorite child, but he narrowed it down to Sassy Lady, a new experiment from the fall that they’re almost out of for the season.
“It’s a great combination of savory and tangy and creamy. It’s very interesting,” he said.
The soft cheeses, which aren’t available at the moment because they don’t age for as long, include Little Something. Similar to brie or camembert, Little Something is creamy and spreadable. “That’s a favorite among customers,” said Haverland.
As for their future on the farm, Morley said, “We want to grow to a place where we’re still able to manage the cows in a way we’re proud of and make high-quality products.”
Learn more about Sweet & Salty Farm at sweetandsaltyfarm.com.