Dining With Denise Neil

Elderslie Farm, home of you-pick blackberries, fancy farm dinners, is expanding again

2015: Family creates unique 'farm to table' experience

George and Katharine Elder run a small café weekends on their small family farm near Valley Center.
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George and Katharine Elder run a small café weekends on their small family farm near Valley Center.

As though their you-pick blackberry bramble, outdoor farm cafe, and elegant farm-to-table dinners weren't dreamy enough, George and Katharine Elder have another project in the works at Elderslie Farm.

And when it's completed this fall, the Wichita area will have something that isn't available anywhere near here: a fully operational, state-of-the-art, commercial goat creamery.

It'll be called Elderslie Creamery.

The couple is in the process of building a 4,000-square-foot facility on the Elder family farm, which is at 3501 E. 101st St North in Valley Center. The building is taking shape just to the east of the house where the dinners are put on and south of the farm's existing goat barn, where little guests like to stop and play with the animals when they visit.

The creamery will produce cheese — mostly goat cheese, which is a soft, tart favorite of gourmet cooks like Katharine Elder, who regularly uses it in her dinners. The creamery, which will have a retail area, also will sell something many people around here have probably never tried: goat milk gelato.

You have to try it , George Elder insists. He sampled goat milk gelato in Chicago and quickly was made a believer.

"Goat milk has as a signature a little more acidity and more brightness than cow milk does," he said. "With a goat milk gelato, you get a little bit of a nice, bright, crisp flavor."

The new creamery will have a big dairy facility and rooms dedicated to cheese making, cheese aging and cheese cooling. The retail area will offer both a cheese counter and a gelato counter. It will be open year round with longer hours in the summer.

To start, the Elders will produce five different goat milk cheeses, including a chevre (what most goat cheese fans are used to) plus a goat milk feta and an aged goat gouda. They also plan to partner with local cow dairies to create a few cow milk cheeses, George said.

Next month, a herd manager and a cheese maker will join the staff at Elderslie Farm. George plans to have the creamery open by Oct. 6.

The creamery will have places where visitors can walk through and see the cheese making in progress, George said. His goal is to eventually have 100 milking goats in his herd. The Elders have made basic goat cheeses for a while, but as they became more interested in cheese making, they realized they needed a more controlled environment to make the kinds of products they wanted, George said.

They've been dreaming about the creamery for a decade, George said, and seriously planning it for the last two years.

The creamery grows the business in a way that will compliment the attractions that the Elders have already established at the farm, George said. Plus, it will be an aspect of their business that can continue year round and isn't reliant on warm temperatures and a cooperative spring.

"We felt like we wanted to take another step in our agriculture, diversifying it into something that had a longer window of availability than blackberries and a different risk curve."

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