In the early 1990's, Kenny Mattingly of Kenny's Farmhouse Cheese, whose family milks about 120 dairy cattle in Barren County, Kentucky, was worried about the future of milk as a commercial commodity - and especially about whether he and his family could continue to make a living on their 200-acre farm. After a farm trip to Europe, he returned with a different notion. He was impressed with the way small family farms in Western Europe were finding ways to add value to their products and market to their local communities. It gave him a new vision for his farm.
So in 1998, he and his family started using some of their milk to produce Gouda cheese using Old World, handmade techniques. That first year, the family made about 4,000 pounds of cheese. Sales and production have grown consistently since then.
"It started out as a business decision," said Mattingly. But somewhere along the line, he became a cheese-maker. The work for Kenny Mattingly, his family and farm hands begins at 4 a.m. with the milking. Mattingly's cows are raised without synthetic hormones and supplement their pasture diet with corn and hay grown on the family's farm.
The milk is piped to a sanitary, all-white room that looks like a science lab - more precisely, a cheese laboratory. Mattingly fills a large stainless steel vat with the day's fresh milk, constantly stirring, heating and adding bacterial culture that naturally begins the conversion to cheese. Two extra touches that he believes make his cheese more special for his customers are coagulating the cheese with vegetable-based rennet, to make it more acceptable to vegetarians and hand cutting/ packaging each block or round of cheese.
Due to an ever-changing regulatory climate, the decision was made in 2013 to start using Pasteurization on some of the cheeses. While certain aged and signature varieties will continue being made with raw milk, the use of a pasteurizer opens up opportunity for making fresh cheeses and the ever-popular cheese curds.
Kenny Mattingly's vision for his farm has come a long way since that trip to Europe back in the early 1990's. Little did he know that what he experienced on the small family farms where he stayed, would he himself be adding value to his products and marketing to his local communities.
Monday -- Friday: 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Saturday: 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.