CLEVELAND – Artisan cheese production and big-city streets might seem like an unusual match, but a husband-and-wife team from Cleveland is proving that urban agriculture has an important place in the world.
Jerry Onken and Mariann Janosko own and operate Lake Erie Creamery, Ohio’s only licensed goat cheese creamery.
But the couple doesn’t own a farm, a barn or even a goat – they do their work in a city building, right next to insurance offices, churches and barber shops.
The couple buys their goat milk from Cherry Lane Farm in Mantua, Ohio. Onken and Janosko never intended to raise their own goats because they wanted to focus solely on making cheese. It would be too overwhelming to take on the entire process, they said.
Business plans. When the pair opened the creamery in August 2006, they decided they’d try to make and sell about 50 pounds of cheese each week. They wanted to start slow and thought that after a year or so, they might increase their production.
But the response from local chefs and restaurants changed their plans. They’re already making and selling 100 pounds of cheese every week and the phones are ringing with more interested customers.
“We’re kind of watching it unfold,” Janosko said. “We had no idea that we’d run into that kind of acceptance.”
It wasn’t until after they opened Lake Erie Creamery that Onken and Janosko realized they were Ohio’s exclusive fresh goat cheese producers. Now, they’d like to see the market grow.
“We’d dearly love to have people come on,” Onken said. “Because we can’t meet the demand,” Janosko added.
Originally, the cheese makers thought the creamery would be a part-time business, operating three days a week. But Onken and Janosko now find themselves working six to seven days each week. The cheese-making process requires quite a bit of labor, as each batch is hand ladled and hand turned.
“We develop a personal relationship with each cheese,” Janosko joked.
Routine. Each week starts with a Monday morning trip to Cherry Lane Farm to pick up 50-100 gallons of milk. Also on Mondays, the milk is pasteurized at the creamery by Onken and Janosko, although this chore sometimes stretches into Tuesday, depending on the amount of milk.
Other Tuesday routines include dipping curd and draining the whey. Wednesdays are reserved for packing cheese and the final two week days are spent in the delivery truck.
The couple has started working a bit on the weekends to turn cheeses and relieve some of the pressure during the week.
About 85 percent of the cheese goes to restaurants, while the other 15 percent goes to farmers markets and retail outlets. The product retails for $9-11 per 8 ounces.
The Cuyahoga County creamery produces three cheeses: ch
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