Sand Hill Farmstead Cheese – the area’s only artisan cheese maker, finds increasing demand for its products

As local farmers market managers might put it colloquially: cheese, please. Please? Please?

“Artisan cheese is what every farmers market aspires to, but it’s the toughest producer to get,” said Ann Louhela, project director of the Western Nevada College Specialty Crop Institute and a longtime farmers market organizer and advocate.

“There are fewer artisan cheese makers because it’s expensive to get into, and there are a lot of government hoops as far as food safety. I’ve made calls to artisan cheese makers to get them to our farmers markets, but they always say they rarely do markets because demand for their cheese so high.”

During the queso fresco making process at Sand Hill Farmstead Cheese, curds are run through a grinder to create a more even, appealing texture that makes the cheese easier to handle and mold.That’s something Isidro Alves of Sand Hill Farmstead Cheese of Fallon is discovering. Cheese making forms a minuscule part of his family’s larger Sand Hill Dairy operation, but since receiving final government approval in April 2012, Alves already has placed his queso fresco and cream cheese with Marketon (where it’s delivered in 16-pound wheels and sliced fresh to order), 15 smaller Latino markets, Sak ‘N Save and the Fallon and Carson City farmers markets.

Alves acknowledged there was unmet demand for his cheeses, especially from other local farmers markets, but he said he wasn’t willing to undertake significant expansion — expensive, highly regulated — simply for its own sake.

“I told myself, ‘We’re going to do this cheese, but we’re not going to leverage our main business,’ ” which produces about 5,000 gallons of cow’s milk daily that’s sold in bulk through a dairy cooperative.

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