About 45 minutes south of St. Louis, Steven and Veronica Baetje can be found doing the work that allows them to supply area markets with eggs and dairy products. That includes a well-loved artisan goat cheese the Baetjes say reminds them of the hills surrounding their farm in Bloomsdale, the Southeast Missourian reported
The couple have been married for 20 years and joke they’ve got 120 kids—baby goats born annually at their farm, according to the Missourian.
The Baetjes' artisan goat cheese has been named among the top cheeses in the world.
Their Bloomsdale variety is a “mold-ripened cheese rolled in a mixture of ash and salt," according to the Baetje Farms website.
“As this cheese ages it becomes progressively softer to the point of runniness,” the website states. “The cheese at that point takes on some blue cheese flavor compounds (and) some (customers) use it as a savory sauce for grilled steak.”
The Baetjes took Bloomsdale and several other cheeses to the World Cheese Awards 2011 in Birmingham, United Kingdom. There, they won a super gold award, four silvers and a bronze for their artisan cheeses, Feast Magazine reported.
There were 50 super gold winners selected but only 16, including Bloomsdale, were selected by judges as the best in the world.
The Baetjes' cheese “registers high on the radar of St. Louis foodies," Feast reported. "Handcrafting cheese in Old World style, the Mennonite couple pours their prayers and passions into every step of the cheesemaking process.”
And making it all happen can be “nothing short of brutal,” Feast writer Barbara Stefano stated.
“Steve's day begins before the day begins: He's up by 3:15 or 3:30 on weekday mornings to sanitize equipment, milk about 50 goats and do as many odds and ends as possible before sunlight ever kisses the horizon,” Stefano wrote.
And Veronica’s no slouch either. In fact, Stefano reported, she’s the “heart and brains of the cheese facility, spending long hours making fresh cheeses, washing and turning the aged varieties by hand and wrapping and packaging cheese for sale and conceiving and testing new recipes.”
They’ve got just two employees, one full-time and one part-time, and the Baetjes don’t take vacations.
About the farm
The Baetjes’ farm has an interesting history, starting with a barn that originally served as a Sears and Roebuck kit barn, according to the couple’s website. It was built in 1912 by a neighbor’s uncle whose name is now inscribed in the haybonnet in the loft.
In 2006, the couple added a cheese plant to the barn and hosted a barn-raising party in celebration. Neighbors, family and friends attended.
“It was a beautiful day, and right as we were finishing, a bald eagle circled right above our heads," the website states. “'Truly God is Good' echoed (in) our hearts! What a blessing He has given us in being able to see the beauty of His Creation in such a sight as that!”
The home in which the Baetjes live dates to the late 1700s and is rumored to have been a site Civil War soldiers visited while passing through the area.
In addition to Clayton Farmer's Market, Baetje Farms can be found at Soulard Market, Maplewood Farmers Market at , and at several area restaurants and stores. You can also find the Baetjes at special events in the St. Louis and Sainte Genevive area throughout the year, according to their website.