Kennebec Cheesery at Koons Farm is located on 100+ acres overlooking Messalonskee Lake in Sidney, Maine. The property has been farmed since 1792 and the original farmhouse is still in use. Our cheesery was completed and licensed in 2008 with the help of family, friends and a Farms for the Future grant. In addition to selling hand-crafted cheeses and yoghurt the farm sells lamb when available. Our herd of around 60 dairy goats and about two dozen Katahdin sheep graze on the 30 acres of pasture and hay fields.
We began by making small batches of our signature chevre rounds and yogurt in 5-gallon pots. Soon we were making the chevre in 40-gallon soup kettles and as our milk volume increased we added feta and caerphilly. Our daughter Linnea inspired us to add brie, paneer and additional hard cheeses to our repertoire. All of our cheeses are produced by hand in our cheesery, which contains a small in-line milking parlor, a bulk tank and wash-up room, and a cheesemaking room with two 40-gallon kettles and a 100-gallon vat. The make room is connected directly to the aging room where our hard cheeses age for up to a year to reach maturity. Our cheeses are sold at local farmers markets, health-food stores and restaurants.
We started our herd with 10 Alpine does, and all of the goats in our current herd are the descendants of those first matriarchs. We have since bred the herd with both Alpine and Saanen bucks to produce the milk properties we wanted for our cheese. Every year we name the kids using a new letter of the alphabet and we are now up to the letter K! Our goats graze on pasture all summer and are fed our own hay in the winter. They receive a scoop of GMO-free grain during milking. The health of our herd is very important to us and we only treat individuals on the rare occasion that it is needed. We are a tested CAE and CL-free herd.
Head cheesemaker Jean Koons grew up on a sheep farm in Cricklewood, New Zealand. She has been involved with farming for most of her life and has studied cheesemaking on three continents. Peter Koons, a native of Kennebec County, manages the hay production, feeding, and all manner of heavy or messy work required on the farm. Jean and Peter discovered the startling variety of cheeses in existence while living in Switzerland in the 1980’s. After moving back to New Zealand’s South Island, Jean and Peter farmed sheep, cows and goats near Dunedin and Jean worked for Evansdale Cheese, the first artisanal cheese producer in New Zealand. In 2001 Peter hauled Jean and their kids back to the family farm in Maine because he missed the Maine seasons. Jean and Peter started Kennebec Cheesery out of a love of farming and a desire to keep the land viable and productive. Jean is a founding and active member of the Maine Cheese Guild, set up in 2003.
We are committed to keeping our land in farming and keeping the pastures productive and sustainable. We compost farm waste and cycle the nutrients back to the fields, as well as using other organic inputs as needed. In 2013, we installed 6kW of PV solar panels that produce a significant portion of the power we consume for our cheesery operation, including refrigeration, lighting and driving the various milk pumps. We believe that local farm economies are an essential part of a sustainable future and we are pleased to be a part of the local food movement in Maine.