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Meet the vendor: Hemme Brothers Creamery

Meet the vendor: Hemme Brothers Creamery
Posted on 04/08/2019
Man smiling at cameraHemme Brothers Creamery is bringing its small-batch, handcrafted cheese to the Lenexa Farmers Market as a regular vendor this year.

Hemme Brothers Creamery is located in Sweet Springs, Missouri, and is truly a family operation. David Hemme, the patriarch, grew up on a dairy farm milking cows with his father until age 10, when his dad turned to pig farming. In 1996, David turned back to dairy farming. Today, David works alongside his four sons Aaron, Mike, Nathan and Jon. 

The decision to make cheese came out of the boys’ desire to return to the farm. The family knew that in order for the five Hemmes to make a living on the farm, they needed to add more cows or look into value-added items. Cheesemaking appealed to them because cheese has a longer shelf life than other value-added dairy products. In 2016, Hemme Brothers Farmstead Creamery opened its doors to small batch, handcrafted cheeses. 

Each Hemme has their job on the farm and creamery. David is head of cheese sales, but still milks one morning a week, which he claims he is getting too old for. Aaron and Mike oversee the majority of the cow operation. Jon manages the row crops and heifers. Nathan is chief cheesemaker. 

The Hemmes milk 150 Holstein twice a day — at 5 a.m. and 5 p.m. — 365 days a year. This means someone always has to be on hand to milk. With five of them, they occasionally find time away from the farm.

The Hemmes farm 950 acres of row crops and 400 acres of pasture and hay for their cows. The cows are fed corn silage and alfalfa grown on the farm, and the Hemmes also purchase good-quality alfalfa from other farms. They are looking into returning to cover crops and grazing for the dairy herd. 

Their modest milking parlor can milk 17 cows at a time. It takes an hour and a half to milk the entire herd but — start to finish — it takes three hours from sanitizing to the end of washing. Milking is a two-person job, with everyone (plus five high school students) rotating through the chore. The milk is pumped into a 2,800-gallon tank that they have yet to fill completely. Around 75% of the milk will go to the Dairy Farmers of America, while the rest goes into their cheesemaking operation. 

Hemme Brothers Farmstead Creamery primarily makes cheddar cheese. The current cheddar flavors are: mild, aged, barbecue, espresso, smoked, black pepper and spicy ghost pepper. They make quark —an unaged, jarred creamy cheese — and cheese curds — unaged large curds of cheese that are squeaky when bitten into. 

Every step of their cheesemaking process is monitored and recorded. The milk is checked for antibiotics before the cheese is made and the pH levels are monitored and recorded throughout the process. You can look out the creamery doors across the farmyard to see the cows that produced the milk for every block of cheese. The creamery is a separate building built directly next door to the milking parlor. The milk is pumped into the creamery for the cheesemaking. 

Nathan Hemme is head cheesemaker and has one part-time employee that works in the creamery with him. In his one large vat, Nathan can make 380 pounds of cheese or 640 pounds of quark at a time. Nathan’s day begins at 2 a.m., long before sunrise. He starts by making curds, then draining the whey (flavors are added here). Forty-six pounds of the curds are then put into blocks and pressed overnight to remove more whey. The cheese is then aged for 14 months at 56 degrees Fahrenheit. After the cheese is aged, it is cut into five-pound blocks. Many of the flavored cheeses are rolled in additional flavoring and cut into smaller retail portions and sealed, ready for sale. Hemme Brothers milk has received the quality award from the Dairy Farmers of America for the last three years. Nathan says high-quality milk makes high-quality cheese. 

David Hemme loves the independence he has with farming, but the work is demanding. The time and dedication it takes to build their brand right takes a toll. Last year, his missed a niece’s wedding due to conflicts. David did get to take a dream vacation to Germany to visit relative who also have a dairy where they are producing value-added products. 

Be sure to visit the Hemme Brothers Creamery vendor stall at the Lenexa Farmers Market on Saturdays!

Published April 8, 2019