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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Farmer Heros: Rick and Lora Lea

Northeastern, Wash.

“Quillisascut Farm School instills an awareness of a sustainable planet. There can be no greater connection to food than to be immersed in the place where it is grown, where all of your senses are involved…your hands in the dirt, the heady smell of cheese in process - each meal a culmination of the days work.” - Karen Jurgensen, Executive Chef, Baci Catering and Cafe

Enthusiasm for adventure, love of country living and a dream of farming brought Rick and Lora Lea Misterly to the Huckleberry Mountain range of Northeastern Washington 23 years ago where they founded Quillisascut Farm. Lora Lea has a background in small-scale dairy farming and cheese making. Rick attended Pierce College of Agriculture and is an avid gardener. Today, the Misterlys hand-milk approximately 35-40 goats and maintain a herd of just over 50. In addition to dairying, the couple also maintains a working garden, an orchard and a vineyard on their 36 acres.

While Rick handles most elements of animal husbandry on the farm, Lora Lea preserves her family tradition of creating farm-made cheeses. She has been expanding on her mother’s recipes and techniques in order to distribute a variety of cheeses to local markets and restaurants.

“Our main market is Seattle area restaurants, and most local chefs have no taste memory for farm made cheese. In other countries, where there is a market in every town, people have a greater connection to where their food comes from,” Lora Lea says. “Just as it takes loving care to cook good food, it takes loving attention to teach people about where it comes from.”

This holistic approach to understanding and appreciating food was not always something that her buyers understood or valued. Rather than dismissing this lack of understanding in her customers, however, Lora Lea and Rick devised a plan. The couple decided to use their farm to teach chefs and food professionals a new respect and understanding about the very beginning of food. Thus, the Quillisascut Farm School of the Domestic Arts was born.

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