Twin Creeks Farm: Respect, Responsibility, and Cream
Written by Mark Corrao, Co-owner Twin Creeks Farm
An off-pitch rooster crow stirs me and I roll over to turn off the alarm where Louis Armstrong is finishing his second chorus of “What a Wonderful World”— it’s 5am. I hear the clink of plates and a sizzling frying pan as I roll out of bed and catch a comforting whiff of fresh baked bread and bacon; my wife, Tiffany Corrao, and co-owner of Twin Creeks Farm in Princeton, Idaho is already up. As a recovering health nut, scientist, and all-around curious human, I enjoy food that makes me feel good and I like to know where it comes from.
As aspiring connoisseurs of fresh cheese, Tiffany and I have become immersed in a world of family values and sustainable foods. This is a world of traditional science and unwavering respect for and responsibility to family and animals. As Tiffany runs the day-to-day operations on the farm, my goal on this day is to get a crash course in cheese making. As I step outside, the sun is softening the black line of the east horizon and the cool air of a May morning and fresh smell of rain inundate my senses. Clad in coveralls like a functional sleeping bag, I bend to clumsily slip my feet into stiff rubber boots. I am anxious and excited.
Armed with a milking bucket, hot water, carry-all, and filter I follow Tiffany down to the barn where Ellie, our Jersey cow, is waiting, tail swishing like a happy puppy. I use the old pitchfork to clear the pies, toss her two flakes of alfalfa, then clip the blue and white lead rope to her halter. She softly moos and starts walking me toward her stanchion. The hot water is now comfortably warm in the cool morning air. I dip a soft chamois cloth in the water and start cleaning her udder. Tiffany says, “This keeps the milk clean and helps her get comfortable with you. If she’s not comfortable she won’t give you milk.” I begin to milk Ellie– amazing! I have nearly half a bucket of ivory white milk with a thick creamy layer on top. It takes me 20 minutes.
“That’s about one gallon” Tiffany says. She then sits down and within 15 minutes has filled and poured two more buckets into the tall carry-all. “That’s just shy of 30 pounds, a little more than three gallons total.” Ellie seems very peaceful standing and chewing her cud throughout this ordeal. I unclip her lead and she gracefully bows out of the barn. Her calf, Leo, is waiting in the pasture and they wander off munching on dew-covered grass.
“On a typical day after milking I usually make cheese, pack eggs, tend the greenhouse and garden, and include our three year old in the mix until about 4pm when I milk again, have dinner with the family, and prepare for the next day,” says Tiffany. We make our way from the barn to the kitchen where the milk is bottled or stored in gallon jars for cheese-making later that day.
I then follow Tiffany from the milk kitchen around to the back of the building where the greenhouse is attached. We grow all the vegetables and herbs for our family and for flavoring the cheese made at Twin Creeks Farm in this 50 by 14 foot opaque sanctuary. This unique building has a concrete floor from its past as a cattle feeding stall and is sided with recycled boards from what looks like three different generations of barn construction. The concrete flooring, semi-clear roof, and five large windows offer us the ability to capture heat during the latter half of each day and maintain a more consistent temperature throughout the night. This is important for growing some of the unique flavors we use in the cheese that we would not otherwise be able to grow locally.
From one end to the other there are five raised beds: peppers, tomatoes, garlic and leafy greens, squash, and more tomatoes. In the corner there is a fig tree planted through the concrete floor in the native soil and all around the walls there are pots with different herbs: cilantro, basil, parsley, rosemary, and oregano. Tiffany says, “The fig tree we have is a clipping passed down from Mark’s great grandfather who brought the original tree to America from Sicily around 1908.” Outside the greenhouse there are raspberries, blueberries, a number of fruit trees, and more tomatoes and garlic.
Twin Creeks Farm, similar in practice to many older multi-generation farmsteads, doesn’t use artificial fertilizers and seeks sustainability through natural practices that promote soil health. Soil amendments such as chicken compost, cow manure, sawdust from the woodshop, and ash from the fireplace are used to balance soil pH and discourage pests both in the greenhouse and in the pastures.
In many areas we, as a society, are moving toward healthier living and sustainable foods. Very few of us are fortunate enough to have traditional knowledge handed down through generations or the space for a greenhouse, let alone a garden, or pastured animals. However, there are farmsteads, family creameries, organic ranches, urban gardens, and local cooperatives nearly everywhere. The people that keep these vibrant take pride in a lifestyle they believe in because they value their products, their animals, and their health.
The lessons passed to the next generation ensure the values and culture of a lifestyle that fosters respect, responsibility, and sustainable nutritious food. “Be humble, remember where you came from, all the hard work that got you where you are, and care about your work, whatever it is.” These are the values Joe Rocha from Tideland Dairy Goats in Oregon passes to his children. If you enjoy a sense of accomplishment, are interested in your health, and love the taste and experiences that come with natural foods I encourage you to seek out farmsteads and gardens in your area. These people are the local stewards of tradition and a lifestyle that truly exemplifies “What a wonderful world” it is.