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Centerfold: Fleur de la Prairie

Photographed by Adam DeTour  |  Styled by Kendra Smith

Making good cheese starts with good milk, which in turn starts with good feed and ultimately, good dirt. The dirt in central Illinois, which was once wet prairie, is some of the richest and most fertile in the world. Leslie Cooperband and Wes Farrell of Prairie Fruits Farm and Creamery want to make sure it stays that way. 

“The cheese was partly born of ways we could more utilize our farm resources. We have this amazing herb garden, and we often plant edible flowers”

Before Cooperband and Farrell began raising goats and making cheeses, they had been professors of soil science, which helps to explain why the pastures at Prairie Fruits look more like baby forests than they do typical grazing land. In addition to perennial grasses, the Animal Welfare Approved herd feeds on legumes, herbaceous plants, and young tree leaves—a practice called silvopasture, which is as beneficial to the earth as it is to the goats and their milk. 

“Our attempt is not to create a certain flavor profile with the herbs and flowers, but to adorn the cheese with them to tie it back to place.”

Flavor of place is present in all of Prairie Fruits’ cheeses, but none so much as Fleur de la Prairie. Made between April and November, the geotrichum-rinded wheel is adorned with dried edible flowers and herbs from the farm’s gardens. “I was loosely inspired by Brin D’Amour—a Corsican sheep’s milk cheese—to reflect where the cheese is made,” says Cooperband. Because it has such a delicate and distinctive flavor, she likes to keep accompaniments simple: “A drizzle of early season honey—lighter and more floral—and a crusty baguette or a plain wheat cracker.”

Susan Axelrod

Susan Sherrill Axelrod is a former editor of Culture. Her love affair with cheese began at age 12, when she bicycled to a gourmet shop to taste an exotic newcomer—French brie. She lives with her partner in midcoast Maine, where she enjoys a well-made cocktail, hiking with their dog, Lucy, and spending as much time as possible on the water.

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