Adirondack cheese farm is also haven for retired animals | News, Sports, Jobs | #retirement | #elderly | #seniors
Nettle Meadow Farm in Thurman, NY is like the Florida of the Adirondacks, full of retired animals. There are brightly colored peacocks and mini horses. There’s a flock of old sheep and a bachelor pad of bucks.
Owner Sheila Flanagan leads me on a tour of the farm on a recent spring day. She’s wearing tall muck boots and a thick black sweater. She starts the farm tour with Lucy, a pot-bellied pig that is splayed out in a fluffy bed of yellow straw.
“Aw, Lucy,” says Flanagan, “she’s sunning herself, she’s so happy.”
Flanagan thinks Lucy is about 14 or 15 years, which is pretty old for a pot-bellied pig. She says Lucy needs a bit of extra care these days. “She gets painkillers every day. She gets all sorts of vegetables along with her grain.”
Animals here come from farms across upstate after their agriculturally productive days are over. Flanagan points to where the other retirees live.
“We’ve got some blind sheep, we’ve got another pot-bellied pig named Hamilton, we’ve got a crazy, crazy llama called Foonzie, and then the Jersey Shore [cow].”
A lot of these animals have worked most of their lives. Flanagan says she and her partner, Lorraine Lambiase wanted to give them a place to grow old. Flanagan describes this part of the farm as their animal sanctuary. It’s open every day to the public.
A couple pulls up and tells Flanagan they’re hoping to see the animals. “There’s a tour at noon and then there’s also self-guided tours,” Flanagan tells them. She grabs the two a brochure and they head out to see the place themselves.
Kids come to the farm’s animal sanctuary with their families. There’s a concert series here in the summer. Flanagan says she loves the joy these animals bring people.
It was her own love of animals that brought her to the Adirondacks 16 years ago. Flanagan had been working as an insurance lawyer out in Oakland, California. She says she hated the work and wanted a change.
“My partner Lorraine and I decided we wanted to do more with animals and we were big foodies and we made cheese and we thought, what the heck?”
Plus, Flanagan says, she’s got the heritage for it. “I come from many generations of dairy farmers in Ireland, so it was something that wasn’t completely foreign to me.”
Sixteen years later, they’re got a huge retirement compound for farm animals and a successful cheese business. Milk for their cheese comes from other herds of goats, cows, and sheep.
Flanagan shows me inside the main farmhouse and leads me down a narrow set of stairs. This used to be a subterranean butter cellar in the 1800s, she tells me. Now, it’s where they make the cheese.
“We started with a little 12-gallon vat pasteurizer, then bought the 15, then a 30, then we bought a 106 gallon.”
They’re about to upgrade to an even bigger pasteurizer. We walk into the next room where two women are standing at a table wrapping little white wheels of cheese.
Nettle Meadow sells to vendors across the North Country and around the Northeast. The week of my visit, the farm will ship more than a thousand crates of cheese to Long Island. The next day more cheese will get shipped to Albany and then the following day to Boston.
We walk deeper into the cellar. There’s a little room in the back with tall metal shelves stacked with cheese covered in black powder. It’s vegetable ash, Flanagan explains. That ash makes the cheese ripen faster, taking on a flavor similar to blue cheese.
“We make a couple of cheeses with black ash,” Flanagan explains, “They have their very own little cave and then everything else is this bloomy rind cheese.”
There are rows and rows of that white bloomy rind cheese. It’s soft and fluffy. You can get Nettle Meadow cheese infused with raspberry tea or Adirondack beer and bourbon.
Flanagan and her partner are still growing the business. They’re opening up a new shop nearby in Schroon Lake. We climb the stairs out of the cellar and Flanagan wraps up the farm tour and right away is back to work. She’s got animals to take care of and a business to run.