Say cheese! Sunderland’s Thomas Farm & Dairy chevre earns rave reviews

Among the many farms in the Franklin County town of Sunderland, Thomas Farm & Dairy is arguably the most special, as it gives the Pioneer Valley such a wide range of offerings, ranging from eggs and vegetables, to flowers and cheeses.

The stars on the farm are the proud, outgoing and graceful Nubian goats, with their long ears and glossy, short hair in a variety of colors. Their milk is very high in fat and protein, which yields a soft, creamy chevre cheese that is sought after by many restaurants and markets across Western Massachusetts.

Farm owners Jim Thomas and Laurie Cuevas pour their love and passion into the work they do every day.

“We both had careers where we had good pay, benefits and vacation, but the passion for farming burned so bright in us that we couldn’t wait to be in this life we chose,” Cuevas says. “We live the life we love, and we love the life we live!”

This special energy and desire for farm life is noticed all around Thomas Farm & Dairy’s 25-acres that are nestled among nearby homes. The nearly 80 milking goats are carefully nurtured, along with the farm’s 10 Brown Swiss milking cows and flock of hens.

“We take deep pride in the integrity and love that goes into everything we do here,” Cuevas says. “We do it all from start to finish.”

Cuevas says their farm stand is busy almost year round. In the early spring, they begin planting the annuals for hanging baskets, alongside spinach and salad greens in their greenhouses. As the season progresses, they plant thousands of vegetables, including squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, beets, eggplant, peppers, kale, eggplant, sweet potatoes and Silver Queen corn.

“We have a huge flower garden, and we make quarts of quick dill pickles that sell out almost immediately,” she adds.

Plants for the fall harvest include cabbage, gourds and pumpkins.

Cows are milked year-round, and the goats milk between March and late November. The goats relax during the winter months and prepare to have their kids in early March.

“We make fresh, squeaky cheese curds that we hand cut, along with Gouda and cheddar-style aged cheeses from our cows’ milk,” Cuevas says.

Thomas Farm & Dairy cheeses are available at the farm stand as well in a variety of retail stores and restaurants.

“The thrill of seeing our products in stores and listed on menus never gets old,” Cuevas says. “For us, it’s more than just a business, it’s the warm greeting we get when we come through the door on a delivery.”

Cuevas believes the residents of the Pioneer Valley are ahead of the times with the local food movement. “Road sides dotted with farm stands like ours are abundant, and we have great support from organizations like CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture),” she says. “The colleges and schools are also a driving force for local. We host countless tours all the way from kindergarten to graduate students.”

Cuevas says they keep an open (barn) door policy.

“We invite chefs and store owners to come and see where their cheeses are made,” she explains. “We want to answer questions and introduce them to the real stars of the show here – the goats and cows!”

Although Cuevas and Thomas make farming look effortless, Cuevas admits it is often mud, manure, dirt, sweat and sometimes tears. Although it’s just the two of them, they are deeply touched by the help they receive from family, friends and the community.

“Last kidding season we had over 100 baby goats born,” Cuevas says. “When we asked for old towels, people showed up with bags of offerings, including food, hugs and help with bottle feeding our baby goats. There is something magnetic about the goats, and people love them.”

Customers can find Thomas Farm & Dairy cheeses at several Big Y locations and in various restaurants and markets up and down the valley. For a complete list, visit the website, thomasfarmstand.com, or see the goats in action on Thomas Farms & Dairy Facebook page, Facebook.com/thomasfarmdairy.

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