When Chapel Hill Creamery’s farmers and cheesemakers Flo Hawley and Portia McKnight were coming up with a name for their bold, aged Asiago-like cheese, they settled on Calvander, a tip of the hat to the local Calvander Crossroads where a nineteenth-century schoolhouse sits. The cheese has gone on to win three Best in Show prizes at the North Carolina State Fair, as well as a World Jersey Cheese Award and a North American Jersey Cheese Award.
Seven other farmstead cheeses are made from the rich, creamy milk produced by the couple’s closed herd of 34 Jersey cows, including buttery washed-rind Hickory Grove (named for a local church), Carolina Moon, which they call the “North Carolina version of Camembert,” and regular and hickory-smoked farmer’s cheeses.
Hawley and McKnight met when they were students at the University of North Carolina and worked side by side at a natural foods restaurant. They stayed in the area to work at the innovative Wellspring Grocery, which later became Whole Foods. They began making cheese on a small scale at Wellspring, before going all the way in 2001 with a farm and herd of their own.
The couple, who make the health and well-being of their animals a priority, also raise heritage-breed pigs, fed on the whey from their cheeses. The sausages and cheese are available at several farmers’ markets, including Carrboro and downtown Durham, as well as at North Carolina Whole Foods stores.