Milky House in Churui
- excellent cheese made by a female owner of a dairy farm
I was fascinated by the cheese made by Tada Etsuko-san. I have good experiences of Japanese cheese, because I have tasted most of the best sorts of Japanese atelier cheese. Nevertheless, no other cheese has ever impressed me so much as her cheeses with their intense and characteristic taste. Etsuko-san makes several kinds of cheese: string cheese, Gouda, Mozzarella and Ricotta, sometimes with basil and pepper. They all taste excellent!
Etsuko-san was always interested in making cheese. Just after graduating from senior high school, she learned dairy farming at Zao Dairy Center and thereby could come into contact with cheese making. After having settled down in Churui to open a dairy farm with her husband, Etsuko-san always tried to make cheese while engaging with cows. When they started to accept trainees at their farm, it became a habit for her to present them her hand made cheese as souvenir when they left the farm after the end of training. As the number of trainees increased, she made more and more cheese and her cheese became popular among trainees and neighbors. Therefore, when a road station opened in Churui under the leadership of her husband - Satoshi-san is now the boss of the agricultural cooperative of Churui - it was natural for her to supply it with her cheese. In order to cope with the expanded demand she built a cheese atelier "Milky House
" in April 2004.
However, Etsuko-san told me, she makes cheese only when she has time. First, I could not believe her, because there must be many clients for her excellent cheese and she can make a fortune only if she makes sufficient volume of cheese.
She said, as her husband now fully works with the cooperative, the management of their farm rests totally on her shoulders. The farm now employs 13 workers and one thousand cows produce nearly 4000 tons of milk per year. She as the chief of "Many Field Dairy Farm" is responsible for the whole farm. At the same time, she as a trained dairy farmer, works everywhere in the farm as leader from milking in early morning till keeping accounts in the evening.
She is especially busy during the time when climate is favorable. Her farm has over 180 ha own agricultural land and 70 ha leased land to produce grass and corn for feed. It buys additional materials for feed from nearby farms. Then, Etsuko-san has to prepare feed for the following year for nearly 1000 cows, before winter comes. Her cattle are solely fed with feed produced in the neighborhood. This is a very exceptional case for Japanese dairy farms, because they are heavily dependent on the formula feed whose ingredients are mostly imported from the US.
Therefore, Etsuko-san has time for making cheese primarily in the wintertime. When I visited her Milky House, she told me that she had not made cheese in the last two months. Her cheese is reasonably priced, if we can obtain any at all. Nowadays, Etsuko-san's cheese has rarity value.
I am convinced that Etsuko-san's cheese making cannot be understood as business, but more as hobby. What she wants seems to be the words of appreciation and thanks by the people who have tasted her cheese. For such a spiritual satisfaction, she does her best to make the best quality cheese possible.
I wonder whether she really had systematic education for her cheese making. She explained me that she learned cheese making from a teacher with Dutch experiences. She herself once went to Italy, Toscana, to stay with a farmer to learn cheese making. However, she learned only in her spare time and the latter experience was merely within the context of agro tourism. Therefore, I cannot but believe that the high quality of her cheese comes from her own gift for taste and affection for cheese and people.
Her farm has mostly Holstein cows, as Holstein is the standard breed for milking in Japan. However, she keeps also a few Brown Swiss and Jersey cattle in order to make an ideal milk mix for her cheese. Even among Holstein cows Etsuko-san has a few favorites as they are flawlessly healthy and produce milk especially suitable for her cheese making.
I am really convinced that her cheese tastes excellent, because she always seeks for the best taste, so that she can see the best smile of the people who eat her cheese. As she thinks this way, there is no limit to her investment in her cheese making. Therefore, we must also make our best efforts to obtain her cheeses when they are available.