Gardening misadventure sales opportunities to boutique cheese principle

Chuck Farmer, Contributing Writer

LINDEN GROVE TWP — In an strange change of situations, a local couple in this article has turned a gardening misadventure into what looks to be an entrepreneurial achievement tale.
Josephine Oksem, a retired nurse, experienced hoped to devote her golden years doing work her garden in her rural homestead west of Prepare dinner. But an come across with a voracious woodchuck, which wreaked havoc on her squash and pumpkin bed in 2020, finally sent her lifestyle in an totally new route, as the co-founder of a boutique cheese producing procedure that is attracting the consideration of agriculture officials.
Oksem and her spouse Warren not too long ago received a $35,000 Minnesota Farm Worth-Additional investigate grant together with seed funds from the Compact Organization Administration to expand their fledgling procedure, known as Chuckling Cheese. The concept was pure happenstance, soon after Warren Oskem are living-trapped a woodchuck that had prompted substantial destruction to his wife’s yard. Josephine, who experienced labored with young mothers for the duration of her nursing vocation, acknowledged that the woodchuck was lactating and, with her husband’s enable, the couple was ready to relocate the mom woodchuck and her “chucklings” as youthful woodchucks are known as, into an enclosure, wherever they could dwell devoid of further detrimental the backyard garden.
Warren, a retired DNR wildlife biologist, pointed out that the mother woodchuck generated an abundance of milk for her youthful. The light bulb went on instantly in Josephine’s head, who did some on the net study and found that woodchuck milk was particularly loaded in extra fat, vitamin A, and antioxidants. The woodchucks had been surprisingly docile when managed and Josephine resolved to extract some of the milk as an experiment. Right after a few unsuccessful tries, she rigged a harness that permitted her to suspend the woodchuck over a smaller container and her initially batch of woodchuck milk, about a cup’s value, was soon in the kitchen area.
Josephine experienced been learning to make her own cheese and she made a decision to make what could nicely be the world’s initial batch at any time designed from woodchuck milk. “The effects have been astonishing,” reported Josephine. “I really don’t know what I envisioned, but I did not anticipate it to style terribly sweet, fragile, nutty, and buttery. It was like almost nothing we had at any time eaten. Our to start with batch was no greater than a spool of thread. We cherished it and gave compact tastes to all our pals.”
A two-inch chunk of cheese is barely the basis for a business enterprise, but applying his biologist know-how, Warren utilized for permits to increase a little “herd” of woodchucks as aspect of a breeding system that is now supported by their study grant.
As they’ve expanded their procedure, they’ve been capable to make more of the distinctive cheese.
Laboratory tests of their merchandise demonstrates it has a safe and sound microbial profile and a unique mix of proteins, fat, and sugars, not seen in usual industrial cheeses. It is also lactose-free, assisting to faucet a escalating specialized niche industry.
Since generating their first batch of cheese in the slide of 2020, the Oksems have ongoing to share some of their product with some others, together with persons in the food stuff field, ranging from brands, restaurateurs, and specialty shops. “Everyone who has tasted it has raved,” reported Josephine. “They’re continuously contacting us up to see if we have more. The memory of this cheese just lingers and you can not hold out for your upcoming flavor.”
The Minnesota Farm Department’s Promoting and Advancement Director, Rory Matthews, suggests that though his agency has been funding agriculture investigate for decades, this challenge has an unusual blend of strengths. “I have been lucky to have a taste of this, astonishingly very good, woodchuck cheese. I am glad that the point out can enable deliver this foods to sector. Importantly, the prospective for financial gain is excellent, ranging from work for woodchuck growers and breeders, creamery employees, fromagers, as well as entrepreneurs for this ridiculously tasty cheese.”
The cheese is, without question, a boutique product, but its relative shortage in the market place at this place makes certain that it fetches a significant cost, at the moment close to $28 a pound.
For now, it is only offered through on line orders at