Andy & Caitlin Hatch, Scott & Liana Mericka
Dairy farming doesn’t exactly woo young people, especially those who didn’t grow up on their parents’ spread. But after apprenticing with Uplands’ original owners, Hatch and Mericka found ways to make indie farming work for their families -- and to produce the country’s most-awarded cheese while they’re at it.
The Merickas manage the herd: 150 cows carefully crossbred from nine breeds, including Guernseys, Jerseys, and Montbéliardes, to produce the grass-fed milk that is Uplands’ secret sauce. “It’s shockingly sweet at first, and finishes green, like fresh olive oil,” says Hatch.
Meanwhile, his family oversees the cheese caves, where wheels of their pride and joy, Pleasant Ridge Reserve, dry-age. Its success has given them the flexibility to grow: They’ve also become known for rich, spreadable Rush Creek Reserve, made in the fall, and Hatch is now eyeing possibilities for late fall’s hay-fed milk. That creativity makes their lifestyle sustainable -- and inspiring. Says Hatch, “We want to show young families that they can stay in dairy farming.”