Case Study - From Grass to Cheese: The Nolan Family Farm

In Ohio, a family dairy farm ventures into cheesemaking

Sustainable agriculture presents an opportunity to rethink the importance of family farms and rural communities. Laurel Valley Creamery in Ohio is such a family farm operation, integrating a dairy and cheesemaking farmstead to produce eleven varieties of cheese. Nick and Celeste Nolan, and their children are challenging many aspects of the current model of agriculture with a commitment to producing a high quality food product in a more sustainable way.

Family farms overview: (reprinted from USDA CSREES, 2011) The vast majority of farms and ranches in the United States are family owned and operated. USDA classifies family farms as “any farm organized as a sole proprietorship, partnership, or family corporation. Family farms exclude farms organized as nonfamily corporations or cooperatives, as well as farms with hired managers” (USDA, Economic Research Service 2007 Family Farm Report). Under this definition, the National Agricultural Statistics Service’s 2007 Census of Agriculture reported that family farms account for almost 96 percent of the 2,204,792 farms in the United States.

About the film: The 5-minute documentary, From Grass to Cheese: The Nolan Family Farm, is a short film about the Nolan's family-run dairy farm in Ohio and their venture into cheese making. The film highlights the challenges and passions of small farmers. The film is directed by Todd Tue, produced by Milk Products Media, with music by the Outlaw Family Band and Chris Bathgate. The work explores the lives of a family in farming whose choices go upstream — against the flow — driven by passion, opportunity, hard-work, and hope. The film composition is tight and of high artistic value in communicating the personalities and passions of some unlikely leaders in a new approach to agriculture. The early morning, pre-dawn sequences communicate the connection of this family to the hard work of agriculture and food production. Film used with permission. —GM


(Opening sentance courtesy of Gail Feenstra, University of California, Davis)