When Brian and Kate Humiston moved to Oregon in 1999, they had no idea they would end up being cheese-makers.
Brian was interested in Oregon State University’s Food Science and Fermentation program, but he was most interested in brewing beer. While studying at OSU, Brian learned how to prepare several fermented foods, including wine, beer, and sauerkraut.
Brian’s career path was permanently altered when an OSU professor approached him about studying cheese.
“There were so many people graduated in beer,” says Brian. “Cheese is important too.”
He worked for a few years at Willamette Valley Cheese Company, then entered a Masters program at OSU to study camembert.
In 2010, Kate and Brian decided to launch Full Circle Creamery. They began developing their recipes at the OSU Dairy Pilot Plant in Corvallis, which they rented by the day. Kate and Brian are now using the organic cheese-making facility at Noris Dairy in Crabtree, just south of Scio.
Noris Dairy raises a herd of Holstein cows on certified organic pasture.
“We were searching for the highest quality milk we could find here in the Willamette Valley,” says Kate. “And we found it right here at Noris Dairy.”
Brian, Kate, and their crew currently make cheese one day a week. The rest of their time is spent packaging cheeses, running deliveries, doing cheese tastings, and selling at local farmers’ markets.
Two weeks ago they were making a 750-pound batch of raw cheddar. On a typical cheese-making day, half the work is intense and fast-paced, while the other half is mostly waiting around. And they can’t rush it. The milk needs time to reach the right temperature, the curds need time to form, the cheese needs time to ferment, the whey needs time to drain, etc. For raw milk cheddar, they have to wait a minimum of 60 days for the cheese to age.
“You’re just guiding micro-organisms to make [the cheese] for you,” says Brian.
With the recent purchase of a pasteurizer vat, they’ll be expanding the variety of cheeses they’re able to create. Fresh mozzarella is on the horizon.
Full Circle Creamery is now selling cheese to grocery stores throughout the Willamette Valley. According to Kate, they don’t want to grow much beyond that. She and Brian like the idea of staying local and promoting healthful eating.
“Cheese is kind of a gateway natural food,” says Kate. “People come and they taste the cheese, and they start to realize that it’s good food. And you can seek out other good foods, fruits and vegetables, and things that are grown locally right here in the Willamette Valley.”
Nate Rafn is the executive producer of Living Culture, and creator of Dinner at the Rafns’ supper-club. Learn more at www.livingcultureonline.com and www.dinnerattherafns.com.