Melanie Christensen, contributing writer
It’s Black and White Days this week in Richmond, Utah, which is a celebration of the small town’s long-standing tradition of raising cattle. Event-goers can pick up a hamburger, check out the dairy food competition or watch a Holstein cattle competition.
Even though they aren’t black and white, there are six other Richmond cows who also wouldn’t mind a visit this week. Their names are Elsa, Greta, Ingrid, Iggy, Ruby and Chloe.
These cows belong to Jen Hines and her husband Pete Schropp, who own a four-acre specialty cheese farm in Richmond called Rockhill Creamery. Unlike many of the other farms in Richmond, the creamery has only been around for 12 years.
Jen and Pete decided to start the business because they owned a small, historic farm and they wanted to make use of it.
“We wanted to keep it alive and keep it working, make it something that could actually support a family,” Jen said. “So we took some of the buildings – the old granary and what used to be an old egg house at one time – and we rebuilt them and turned them into basically what would be our retail store and our little creamery where we actually make the cheese. Then we have an old building that we converted into a dairy parlor where we could milk the cows.”
Now, Rockhill Creamery is the only specialty cheese farm in Cache Valley and one of only a handful in Utah. The couple’s farm is so small that they often refer to it as a ‘micro-dairy,’ and Jen says it’s never going to get any bigger.
“That’s a ridiculous business plan,” she said. “So we’re never going to get rich, but it is a wonderful lifestyle.”
Jen spends her days milking and caring for cows, crafting, aging and packaging cheese, and interacting with customers at farmers’ markets and in their own retail shop. Jen said the amount of work is “really killer.”
“We have a few part-time employees and some high school kids that help us out with some of the heavy lifting and milking,” she said. “But it’s pretty much a mom-and-pop operation.”
But because Jen and Pete own the business, they have the freedom to make it their own.
“Because we milk the cows ourselves, all of our cheeses are raw milk cheeses,” Jen said. “So that’s a little bit unusual, but we did that on purpose to get a little more flavor in our cheese.”
They sell several unique cheeses, from “Wasatch Mountain Gruyere” – a “nutty, buttery, earthy” cheese, according to their website – to “Red Desert Feta,” a traditional goatmilk feta “without the goaty aftertaste.”
Most of the creamery’s products were originally sold to specialty cheese shops and at farmers’ markets, Jen said, but now much of the cheese is sold to chefs in restaurants around the country.
“It’s a really wonderful feeling to make a product that you’re proud of and that people love and appreciate and to know that our farm is actually a viable, working farm that we brought back to life,” Jen said. “There’s a lot of satisfaction in that.”