As One (Cheese) Door Closes....
Farewell to Bee Tree DAIRY (...but not Farm!)
Farmstead cheesemakers are a special breed. While we give mad props and appreciation to all artisan cheesemakers, farmstead cheesemakers are unicorns who master many trades. Since they care for and milk their own herd of animals on the property where they make the cheese, they are forced to be experts in animal husbandry and serve as veterinarians in emergency situations, in addition to being scientists and artists in the creamery with their hands in the milk vat, solo marketing departments hustling and pitching their products, and often their own distributors or delivery drivers. That’s a lot of jobs for what is often a sophisticated, labor-intensive operation run by a couple… or in the case of Bee Tree Farm and Dairy, what started out as a one-woman show!
Bee Tree Farm & Dairy, located in Manor, is our closest farmstead cheesemaker to Austin. That makes her a town gem. When I first met Jenna Kelly-Landes about seven years ago, I was immediately stricken with her passion, her love of her land, and her love of goats. Formerly working in policy, she’d taken a leap of faith with her husband Jeremy to start a farm in Manor - and that included hand clearing fields of brush personally. (The “Bee Tree” namesake is part of her origin story.) Jenna didn’t cut any corners as she built out one of the most impressive small creamery’s and milking parlors I’ve seen for an operation of her size. I came back to John and said, “She’s not messing around. She’s one to watch. I want to be a part of whatever she’s doing.” Over the past handful of years, we’ve loved eating her Mi Corazon, Diablito, and Halloumi to name a few. I could wax poetic about Jenna and what she’s built for pages, but just as an example of how much grit she has - and how much it takes to run a farmstead operation - she got her commercial license to milk her goats and make cheese the same year she found out she was pregnant….with twins. She sold her first cheese on her twins’ first birthday in July 2016. I can’t even begin to explain how tough that is. And if you’ve been following her on social media, you don’t need me to. Because she’s been open about the journey all along. And she’s quick to point out that while she could stick to posting cute goat pics, she’s more interested in being real about what it takes to get (and keep) a farmstead cheesemaking operation sustainable.
So while it hit me in the gut (and reminded me of some of our own business closures), it wasn’t a huge shock when Jenna announced last week that she was closing her dairy sometime in the coming months. Now - pay attention folks - while you need to purchase your last Bee Tree Farm cheeses wherever you can right now, note that the farm is NOT closing. She’s simply halting her cheese production. For reasons she explains best, it became too much to do all of it. The great news (in addition to Jenna maybe getting a full night of sleep!) is that she’s working on a deal with a new cheesemaking operation who will milk the goats and make the cheese right there on the farm; it will be a different label, different cheese business, and different hands in the vat… but still made with the same delicious milk of her goats.
Where does that leave us? Well, quite frankly, we love Bee Tree Farm. Every time we visit, our soul feels lighter. We’ve hosted numerous events out there, from our Cheese-y Bus Tours to our popular Bubbles, Brunch, and Goats at Bee Tree Farm. In fact, attendee Mimi (@feedmi) posted her recent brunch visit on tiktok and it went viral with 13K likes and 103K views. Check it out on our new page here. We announced a September brunch a few days ago that SOLD OUT IN TWO HOURS! So, without further ado, and as proof that events at Bee Tree Farm remain a thing and will be long into the future, we’re announcing three fall opportunities to attend a Bubbles, Brunch, and Goats at Bee Tree Farm with us. It’s a two-hour event that includes a seated, guided tasting of cheeses and pairings, as well as an optional stroll through the goat pasture replete with opportunities to take your best goat selfie. Upcoming dates? October 16, November 13, and December 11. Note that these are outdoor events under her covered pavilion with a screened in porch. Get more info or book tickets here.
And for those of you who can’t wait that long and are relishing summer grilling, come into the shop and load up on Bee Tree Halloumi, a cheese that’s perfect for grilling OR just frying up in a pan. Drizzle it in olive oil, a little sea salt, and any fresh chopped herbs for a delicious, savory and filling bite.
If we haven’t enticed you enough, I wanted to leave you with a few words from some of our team members. Before signing out personally, thank you to Jenna, cheesemaker Victoria, herdswoman Filipa, and extra-hands Jeremy for the cheese - and the cheese memories - these past years. You’re hard work will be in our food memories for decades to come.
I was lucky enough to live five minutes away from Bee Tree Farm for a couple of years, and there was always an open invitation to visit. The driveway to this hidden gem is a little hard to find, but as the dirt road opens up to the farm, it's easy to see why Jenna fell in love with the place. As the farm dogs came out to greet me, I could hear the goats talking in the barn, the bees buzzing around their hives, and the central Texas heat sizzling. When Jenna told the story of the farm, she painted a picture of hard work and dedication, but it was also a love story. Love of the land, love of the life and, above all else, love of her goats. She was not the only goat cheese maker in the area, but she was the only one making Halloumi, and that set her apart. We grilled her Halloumi that day, and few things are more special than enjoying the fruits of labor with the laborer herself while wandering pastures with her four-legged business partners who made it all worthwhile. ~Eleanor
Our bubbles, brunch & goat event at Bee Tree was one of the first events I hosted with Antonelli's. Jenna was so welcoming, the space was beyond charming, and the overall experience was magical. I left feeling so grateful for the opportunity to cross paths with with Jenna and all that she was doing at Bee Tree Farm. ~Anna
Charitable Cheese Cause
You put our #DoGoodEatGood mission into the world by supporting our monthly #CharitableCheeseCause! Get your tickets while you can to our Cheese 101 tasting on Mon 8/30. Or, just make a note in your calendar to shop with us on on 8/30 - and we’ll donate 5% of your purchase to Austin Speech Labs. They’re on a “mission is to support stroke survivors and their loved ones in rebuilding their lives by providing intensive, affordable, and innovative speech and cognitive therapy. [They] envision a world where stroke survivors have access to the therapy they need to thrive at home, at work, and in the community.” Isn’t that a cause worth supporting? Eat cheese and feel good!
Back to School
Remember picking out your clothes for your first day of school, buying the newest trapper keeper, and selecting your backpack? Oh wait, that might have just been me! But I loved back to school. Don’t let the kids have all the fun. You can head back to school by taking one of our cheese classes. While we’re continuing with in person events - and making sure to keep them at limited capacity for a very intimate experience, don’t forget that we are still offering virtual tasting experiences. You simply pick up your tasting plate (or pay to have it delivered) and join us virtually for a guided tasting led by one of our cheesemongers. Our September schedule is now live and tickets are available! Below is what we have left to round out August...
Sat, Aug 21: Cheese & Pickles Pairing (virtual)
Sat, Aug 28: Prosciutto, Salami, and Cheese...Oh My! (virtual)
Fri, Sep 3: An Antonelli’s Date Night (virtual)
Tue, Sep 7: Preserves & Cheese Pairing feat. Confituras (virtual)
Tue, Sep 14: Honey & Cheese Pairing (virtual)
In Person Events
Sun, Aug 22: Honey & Cheese Pairing
Fri, Aug 27: Pickles & Cheese Pairing
Mon, Aug 30: Cheese 101: The Seven Styles of Cheese
Our Cheese Around Texas - Favorite Pizza
Hey y’all, looking for a new pizza joint downtown? We’ve got you covered! Check out Favorite Pizza on the corner of 6th and West Ave, right next to Sammie’s. Each slice requires two plates, and we’re digging the Clark’s Clam - a white pie with Parmesan cream, chopped clams, lemon, chile flake, parsley, and Pecorino Romano from Fulvi in Italy!
Stay Cheese - y!
John & Kendall
And Your Awesome Cheesemonger Team