Mary Jean Henry, Co-owner of Cranberry Creek Farms in Cresco, Pa, with their first kid of 2013For those with an eye toward the farming life, it sounds like the beginnings of a perfect job: six months rent-free on a mountain farm, hands-on education in the art and science of cheese-making, fresh food from the garden, a small stipend and even a little schooling in marketing and “basic goat care.”
Despite those draws, Paul Lawler is having a hard time finding a serious cheese intern. Maybe it’s his liberal use of the phrase “hard work.” But he’s hoping he just hasn’t reached the right audience yet. Although it has only been a month since Lawler left Cricket Creek in Massachusetts to become head cheese maker at Cranberry Creek Farms, owners Jeff and Mary-Jean Henry have been advertising since February for an intern to join them and their 57 goats on the 100 acre farm, located in Cresco, Pa. They've had a few nibbles, but haven’t yet found a candidate ready to commit to the rigors of farm life and cheese-making.
“We need somebody who wants to work hard and has a genuine passion for working with dairy,” says Lawler. “We want a person who’s ready to be engaged.”
Located about 100 miles north of Philadelphia in the Pocono Mountains, Jeff and Mary-Jean Henry have been running the goat dairy and vegetable farm (there are pigs and hens, too) for three years, and this is the first time they’ve looked to bring an intern on board. But Lawler, who’s been there for just over a month, says apprenticeships like this are key to getting a foothold in the complex business of making and selling cheese.
“I’ve been an apprentice on a few dairy farms before, and I know it’s a lot of hard work, but it’s also an incredible learning experience,” says Lawler, who worked at dairies in central Pennsylvania and the Berkshires before Cranberry Creek.
He stresses that the June-December position isn’t for part-time dabblers, full-time students or those looking for a rural retreat. For someone with a good work ethic and strong desire to enter the world of cheese, however, this may be a perfect fit. A studious intern, he says, should be able to find work at another dairy or even work toward starting their own after the six-month crash course. And Lawler says making cheese on the farm every day is an extremely gratifying way to make a living.
“It’s such a rewarding thing to do for a living, because you’re creating something,” says Lawler. “For me, it’s all about the taste. When you go to the market and show people your work and see their faces light up when they taste something that’s so complex that you’ve made from what is basically old milk, that’s what I love.”
BRIAN RADEMAEKERS is a writer, homebrewer and gardener living in the Philadelphia area.