The best stories we find on the road are those of the people who made a decision, packed up, and set out to start again.
Karen Evans’ husband Chuck was a college art department head in the town of Winona, Minnesota when he decided it was time to go in a different direction. His family had a farm outside of Parma, Idaho where they had raised cattle.
Conditions there in the Snake River Valley are said to mirror the temperatures and soil composition of Provence, France. Several wineries are also located in the area.
Gone to seed, the couple used their artistic skills to bring their farm vision to life in the form of Rollingstone Chevre farms.
Evidence of this is visible everywhere, from the on-site pottery studio to the building materials and unique windows found around the property.
“We sold our house, at one point we tore down an old barn in Parma,” for building materials. “Nothing was square, we joked it was our ‘sculpture,’” Karen said. “We were kind of rebels, what can I say, we’re old hippies.”
When she isn’t making gorgeous goat cheese, she can be found throwing pottery or dancing the Tango. Everything this woman does is art.
The goat-raising started out as a hobby, which led to Karen being the first commercial goat cheese maker in the state.
Right now, Rollingstone is operating a herd of 77 Saanen goats.
“It took (Chuck’s) knowledge of animals,” to make it all work, Karen recalls. “The Saanen dispositions were good, they are very gentle.”
Indeed, with a couple shouts of “goats! goats!” (yep, that’s how you call them!) Karen’s flock comes trotting over the hillside, and we are surrounded by these curious and friendly white animals, smiling and nibbling our camera straps.
Kristina introduced me to this most sublime of goat cheeses initially in the form of their Lavender Anise flavor. It was one of the first places on our map, since we knew it was a pretty small operation within the Northwest.
“I was exhibiting and winning awards,” for her cheeses, Karen said. “Soon, a food critic came along and started introducing me to the restaurant scene.”
Inside the cheese retail room, we can see all her awards and write ups on the farm. Pottery sculpted by her late husband contain varieties of fig, olive and even a lime tree.
All of the production is done on site from milking to finish. There are no distributors, cheeses are shipped straight to the stores in Idaho, Oregon and Washington.
The photos (and when you can get your hands on some, the tastes) belie the unique and freshest flavors. Karen says she probably has “too many” kinds to keep up with being able to supply all of them all of the time.
Some of our very favorites of the fresh, aged and tortas included; the raw milk “Goatster,” the amazing pear-flavored soaked “Brandywine,” Basil Pistachio Torta, and (Our awesome GIVEAWAY) the very special Chevre Provençal & Basil Pepper Provençal! Post below and share with a tag for @freerangequest on facebook or twitter to enter!
Update: Congrats to Dan and James, the winners of our Rollingstone Chevre giveaway!