By Gordon Woodworth, Chronicle News Editor
Nettle Meadow Farm in Thurman, which has built a national following for its cheeses made in Warren County’s most distant reaches, will move to a far more accessible location. It is buying the log building on Route 9N in Lake Luzerne that formerly housed the Hitching Post restaurant.
“We have simply run out of space,” said Lorraine Lambiase, who owns and operates the business with Sheila Flanagan, who was away on a sales trip to California when The Chronicle visited on Sunday.
“Our dream — albeit a very optimistic one — is to open around Memorial Day.”
Until then, they will continue to make their award-winning cheese in a cramped, 700-square-foot space on four floors in a restored 122-year-old cow barn, aging it in an historic stone cellar before shipping it to 49 of 50 states,
“The old Hitching Post has the same type of stone basement that we are using now, so the taste will be matched,” Ms. Lambiase said.
“That’s very important to us. We’re an old-world artisan cheese-making business. We do everything by hand. It’s very important to us to get the flavor of the earth.”
Ms. Lambiase said the new space is about 14,000 square feet and that about 7,500 square feet will be used for producing cheese. Nettle Meadow hopes to produce 160,000 pounds of cheese in 2020.
“It’s close enough to the Lake George tourist traffic, but also to bring more business to Lake Luzerne,” she said. “And we will have five times the retail space where we plan to include local craft merchants, and also a tasting room. We are applying for a beer and wine license and plan to showcase local breweries and wineries.
“And we will have windows so people can watch our cheese being made.”
She said they are “taking care in preserving the original building,” which is made entirely out of logs and includes a massive stone fireplace.
They are buying the building from Vojac, Inc., owned by the Vogel family that owns the Lodges at Cresthaven and the Boathouse restaurant in Lake George.
Vojac, Inc. bought the Hitching Post property for $150,000 on Dec. 31, 2018, county land records show.
Ms. Lambiase said they hope to close on the building “in the next several weeks,” but until then are renting it so they can start the renovations.
Farm staying in Thurman
“I want to emphasize we are not moving the farm,” Ms. Lambiase said. “We are very much involved in Thurman. Our retail shop here will stay open. We will keep doing our tours every Saturday at noon. And we’ll still have cheese tastings and events.
“And, of course, our animal sanctuary is staying. But as we grew, we took in more animals, and the farm became overcrowded. So we have partnered with several family farms and moved our production animals — our goats, sheep and cows — to farms in Galway and near Amsterdam, and we go down four or five times a week to pick up the milk.
“We have animals in nine or 10 farms, helping to sustain those farmers and spread our sustainability.”
“We will never sacrifice the care of our animals. We operate on a shoestring budget, and we keep animals when they stop producing and take in others. We adore our animals and the environment. We didn’t want to overtax the land.”
Mr. Lambiase said that its Luzerne move is being facilitated by $120,000 in state money from Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Regional Economic Development Council, and a $115,000 loan from the Warren County Local Development Corporation.
She said Nettle Meadow uses four pasteurizers right now, but plans to put an additional large pasteurizer into use in 2020.
She said Ms. Flanagan was due to return from California this week. She’s been out there “making connections” and accepting a 2020 Good Food Award for its Kunik triple-creme cheese made from goat milk and cow cream.
“Sheila is a force of nature,” Ms. Lambiase said. “We are an old-world artisan cheese-making business, but business is still business, and she is the one who goes out there and makes the connections to get us into new markets.”
Ms. Lambiase said Nettle Meadow was founded in 1990 and employs 18 people. “In the next three years we hope to add 10 more people,” she said. “We pay well above the minimum wage, and some of our employees have been here eight to 10 years.
“We have chefs, musicians, people who have a love of food and animals from all walks of life.”
How Nettle Meadow cheese is distributed
How do Nettle Meadow’s nationally renowned cheeses get from high in the hills of Thurman to 49 states?
“We hand-load a refrigerated van every Monday morning at 5 a.m., with 500 to 1,000 cases of cheese,” said co-owner Lorraine Lambiase.
“The van goes to a European cheese importer’s cold storage facility in Long Island City, and trucks from all over the country come. It’s great, because those trucks are coming anyway, and now they are taking some of our cheese. We did our own deliveries when we started.”
— Gordon Woodworth
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