Bucks County Herald

A farm emerges in Hunterdon County

KATHRYN FINEGAN CLARK



Jonathan and Nina White, owners of Bobolink Dairy & Bakehouse on Stamets Road between Milford and Frenchtown.

A ballet dancer and a young engineer met in a Manhattan cafe in 1982. Interest in each other grew when they discovered both baked their own bread.

That encounter led to marriage, children, a thriving grass-based dairy farm and bakery in New Jersey and a new international award for one of their cheeses.

Today Nina and Jonathan White, an unlikely pair to become farmers, are both the brains and spirit at Bobolink Dairy & Bakehouse in Holland Township, Hunterdon County. Nina is a semi-retired dancer, dance instructor and choreographer, who just performed in Swan Lake at New York’s City Center. Jonathan, committed to living in harmony with nature, has basically taught himself about sustainable farming. The son of a mathematics professor, he said, “My father taught me the Tao of science.”

Together they work with about 15 full- and part-time employees to produce cheeses made from 100 percent grass-fed cow’s milk, wood-fired rustic breads and pasture-raised meats.

The couple named their business for the striking songbird that shares its nesting ground with the Whites’ 130 pastured cows. The bobolink has nearly disappeared, said Nina, “because modern farming has replaced pastures with cornfields,” but the birds abound at their 187-acre farm in Holland Township’s gorgeous Bunn Valley. The Whites have grown the business slowly and with great care. And it’s paying off.

Nina flew to France last month to collect a silver medal awarded by the Association Fromages des Terroirs at the First Annual Farm Cheese Awards in Lyons. Bobolink’s Amram cheese placed between a French cheese-maker, who won gold, and a Belgian, who won bronze. The cheese is a small soft cheese named for the Whites’ friend, the multi-talented composer David Amram, and was the only American cheese awarded a medal.

The Whites were surprised and thrilled. Proud of their product, they still had never expected international praise although they’ve also won Best Food Artisans in Edible Jersey’s Local Heroes Awards as well as this year’s Best Food Artisan Category in the Garden State Culinary Arts Awards
“We are committed to farming sustainably, humanely and profitably, by letting our cows live on the pasture, eating the diet that they evolved on: native pasture grasses. We make fine artisanal cheeses from the high-quality seasonal milk,” Jonathan said.

The couple started their business in 2002 on a leased farm and in 2010 bought their current property and Jonathan set about preparing the land, clearing the pasture of harmful substances.

“It’s a complicated process,” he said. Then came growing the herd and mastering cheese- and bread-making.

“It’s about putting all the elements of nature together to create a natural product that is healthy and nutritious,” said Nina.

The Whites spent those years creating a special breed of cattle. Suited to a healthful life in the pasture, the animals have been selected for intelligence, parenting skills, sound constitutions and social skills. The Whites call them Bobolink Blacks, a cross of modern dairy breeds, Ayrshire, Guernsey and Jersey, with the ancient Kerry cattle of Ireland.

Jonathan said they are “long-lived creatures who thrive on a 100 percent grass diet and produce high-quality milk. Most of our cheeses are made from raw grass-fed milk, and aged for 60 days or longer. We cave-ripen our cheeses, which develop a natural rind and profoundly complex flavors,” he said.

“With 40 births this year, the herd has grown to the point that a wholesale business is now feasible,” Jonathan said. The Whites are sprucing up the store and bakery at the main building at the farm on Stamets Road. They’ve commissioned a painting for the front by muralist Illia Barger, daughter of Bucks’ sculptor Raymond Barger, and are eagerly awaiting its installation.

Bobolink’s cheeses include cave-ripened cheddar, which is aged about 15 months and has a natural bloomy rind. Drumm is a semi-firm wheel with a complex taste that varies with the season. Jean-Louis, Bobolink’s biggest wheel at about 22 inches, honors the memory of chef Jean-Louis Palladin, who encouraged food artisans to aim for bolder, earthier flavors. Baudolino, a soft ripened wheel, has a strong, fruity and yeasty taste. There are many more; even some experimental cheeses.

Breads include a variety of ciabattas, a cranberry walnut loaf, medieval rye with Kalamata olives, heirloom baguettes, cheese biscuits, and Nina’s cookies made with Jonathan’s butter.

The store is open noon to 6 p.m. weekdays, except Tuesday, and Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Farm tours are conducted on Saturdays, but Jonathan said the tours do not include children’s activities such as rides and games. Cheeses and breads are sold at several farmer’s markets in New York and New Jersey and breads are are available at Organnons Natural Market in Newtown.

A complete list of products, market schedule and other information is available on the company’s website, cowsoutside.com.

kathrynfclark@verizon.net




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