Marcoot Jersey Creamery Milks a Legacy
Her family’s sixth-generation dairy farm served as a bucolic backdrop for a happy, hard-working childhood. Still, Amy Marcoot never planned on returning for anything more than a visit, until fate came calling in 2007.
“I lived overseas when my mom called and said dad was planning to retire,” recalls Amy, a licensed therapist. “It was hard to think about that legacy ending.”
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That legacy began when her ancestors came to America from Switzerland in 1842 with a Jersey calf in tow. Settling first in the Bond-Madison County area – and eventually south of Greenville – generations of Marcoots milked out a living as dairy farmers.
That family business seemed destined to end with the sixth generation. Wanting an easier life for their girls, John and Linda Marcoot encouraged their four daughters to go to college and follow their dreams.
And so they did. Amy and one of her sisters, Beth Marcoot-Young, each earned master’s degrees and began promising careers until their father’s retirement spurred a new dream: to keep the family farm alive.
To do so, they made one major change after returning to the Greenville farmstead.
“We decided that adding value to our milk was the best option – and we’ve always loved cheese,” Amy says.
The sisters broke ground on Marcoot Jersey Creamery in August 2009 and began making cheese the following spring. Early on, they faced a learning curve as sharp as their Alpine cheese.
“Timing, temperature and pH all really matter when making cheese,” Amy says. “A lot of science and creativity go into it.”
Today, all of the milk from their herd of Jersey cows goes into producing some 20 varieties of cheese, from fresh mozzarella to smoked Gouda and creamy Havarti. They also have expanded their product line to include “extreme ice,” a frozen treat made using the leftover whey from their cheesemaking. Using crushed fruit to make flavors such as strawberry and mango, the dessert is similar to shaved ice and rich in protein and calcium.
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That’s just one example of how sustainability became a key ingredient, too. A man-made cave on the property – modeled after those in Switzerland – helps to lower electric bills and provides a natural aging environment for cheeses. Rotating cows among pastures to graze provides natural nutrition for the herd and produces flavors that vary with the season.
“When the cows get in the grass in the spring, the milk is bright yellow; it then becomes lighter throughout the year,” Amy says.
She explains that this occurs because of beta carotene, a fat-soluble yellow pigment and antioxidant found in grass. “Our cheese is always slightly yellow,” she says, “but the spring and summer milk seem to be especially yellow.”
The local food movement embraces seasonal changes like these, and the Marcoot family welcomes those who want to look beyond the label to learn about the food they eat.
“Education is a very important part of our business,” Amy says. “We specifically designed the creamery so the customer can watch us do everything. We are very transparent with our customers.”
While visitors observe the art of cheese making, generations of hard-working Marcoots watch over their descendants from family portraits hanging on the wall of the creamery.
“When I am making cheese and trying to figure out how to do something, I look at the lineage of people and realize I am not the first one who had to figure something out. It gives me hope,” Amy says. “Beth and I never dreamed we would be doing this, but now we can’t imagine doing anything else.”
[infobox alignment=”full” title=”If You Go…”]Marcoot Jersey Creamery
The creamery’s country store is open weekdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (4 p.m. during the winter) and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. They’re closed on Sundays and major holidays.
Address: 526 Dudleyville Road Greenville, IL 62246
Phone: (618) 664-1110
As always, please call ahead before traveling long distances.[/infobox]