Turning from pig fattening to cheese making. It started off as a forced change for the Prokop farm in Landau but it soon became a success story. And today Michaela Rahm sells home-produced cheese in the Meckerei shop. The milk they use comes from their own goats, which recently gave birth to their young. Paying a visit to a day nursery for four-legged friends.
Gentle bleating emerges from the barn. The large sliding gate is slightly open. The first thing you see is little stalls made of wooden pallets. Little white ears peek out from behind them. The closer you approach the sheds, the more excited the little ears get bobbing up and down hectically. A little goat’s head peeks out for a moment—just to duck again instantly. One little goat kid after another jumps up out of curiosity to see who is visiting—and what if the visitors are bringing food?
“There is lots of excitement in the goat’s nursery—and lots of bleating, because the goat kids won’t be fed milk until later, as Michaela Rahm explains laughingly. In spring, the hustle and bustle on the Prokop farm in Landau is particularly great. 110 kids were born over the past four weeks. “This time is always special for us—beautiful and pretty exhausting at the same time,” Michaela says. In this period, the entire family pitches in, because everything has to be done at once: care for the kids, milk the goats, make cheese. “Sometimes five people sit here at the same time and feed the kids with the bottle.”
Goats haven’t been on the Prokop farm for long yet. It was mainly pigs that used to be kept here. The farm is located at the edge of the Queichheim neighbourhood of Landau since 1970. It was run by the uncle of Michaela’s husband Jochem, Rainer Prokop, until 2008. When the new generation was to take over the business, the family sat down and discussed together future options for the farm. At that time, Michaela still lived in a forester’s house near Weidenthal in the Palatinate Forest where Jochem Rahm worked as a forester. “We thought about it for quite a while and then we decided: We’ll take our chances!” They took over the farm and wanted to extend it.
The motto of the Meckerei: Our ‘staff’ is bleating constantly—but gives everything for cheese..
More than 80 goats live in the barn on the Prokop farm.
110 kids were born this year.
At least as curious as the kids.
Their milk is processed by Michaela Rahm to become delicious cheese.
This one is seasoned with pesto.
The cheese-for-grilling variety is one of the bestsellers of the Meckerei.
Another four-legged friend living on the farm.
But the new industrial district in Queichheim grew and continues to do so constantly—until it’ll have surrounded the farm completely very soon. “There wasn’t enough space for an extension,” Michaela explains. And pig farming no longer fitted well into the town’s concept for development. But no one in the family could imagine having a farm without animal husbandry. “So we finally decided to start from scratch and shake up the entire business with the support of the town’s compensation payment,” Michaela says. The new name for the project was decided on quickly: Die Meckerei, literally meaning ‘the bleating’. The last pigs moved out of the barn in 2014—and the first 40 goats moved in.
We sell our cheese fater than we can produce it
“I love animals. I used to always love having as many of them as possible around me when I was a child,” Michaela explains. When she was in the forester’s house, she kept a few goats and began to make cheese herself—just small quantities and for their own consumption. Producing one’s own food—this really made her happy. Next to this, she even trained as a skilled agricultural economist for artisan dairy making from 2017 to 2019.
“Look, these are our girls.” You can’t miss the pride Michaela’s voice conveys. The barn is home to more than 80 goats, 60 of which have had kids this year. Most of them belong to the White German Noble goat type, with some Coloured type specimens with brown fur and four Anglo-Nubian goats with pendulous ears bleating in between. Billy goats keep the ladies company only once per year. On today’s visit, most of the goats nibble at some hay or just rest on the straw. They have space and move around freely. “And they can enjoy their time outside in the yard as soon as it gets warmer.”
Michaela crosses the barn towards the other end where the milking station is. This is where the goats are milked. “During milking they are fed concentrated feed stuff. After all, stepping up here must be worthwhile for them,” Michaela smiles. From here the milk flows into a pre-collection container and then into a large cooling tank. At the moment, the goats give as many as 210 litres of milk per day. However, the milk isn’t stored for long—it is processed within a two-day period.
Michaela walks along the barn under a cosy pergola. A kitchen unit from the 1950s with pastel-coloured cabinetry is installed there. In front of it, a table and chairs draped with furs spread a welcoming spirit. A striped cat is drowsing on one of them. “This is our break room. As soon as the weather is warmer, we have breakfast and lunch here, drink coffee or have team meetings.” Michaela is partial to old things. Also to the old van in the yard—a Citroën with the Meckerei logo. “I prefer old things to new ones. They just have more style!”
She continues to guide us through the rooms to the cheese dairy. A large Pasteur container is installed here. It can hold up to 600 litres of milk. “Currently there is cream cheese in it,” the cheese maker explains. Yesterday she filled the milk in and added a particular bacteria culture—acidification as expert say. Afterwards she added rennet so the milk curdles and the whey separates from the curd. Later she will let the cream cheese run out of the container into another one that is lined with cloth. “Apart from rennet we don’t add anything. We either leave it in its natural state or blend it with fresh herbs.”
In the next room Michaela’s twin sister Claudia is packaging their cheese for grilling. It is seasoned with garlic pesto, lemon pepper or herbes de Provence. This cheese and the cream cheese are the most popular Meckerei products. “Apart from these varieties we produce curd, Camembert-style soft cheese and—if any milk is left—also hard cheese.” The Meckerei doesn’t have a ripening room, so hard cheese has to ripen in foil. “Unfortunately there is no space for such a room here,” Michaela says. “But usually we sell our cheese faster than we can produce it. We couldn’t produce even more varieties.”
Besides goats, the Prokop farm is also home to dogs, cats, chickens, geese and two Jersey cattle specimens. “You have to have a hobby, right?” Michaela laughs. The family rarely buys animal groceries in the supermarket, because the farm allows them to be self-sufficient: with eggs and milk as well as with meat from chickens, cattle and goats. Goat’s salami is regularly available in the farm shop. “I know that my animals are well here on the farm. I know what they eat and how they live. I much prefer this to buying a cheap product from a shop produced in industrial animal husbandry.”
Meckerei cheese is available in farm shops around the region, in a number of supermarkets, and, first and foremost, in the Meckerei farm shop itself, which is worth a visit for its cottage style conveying a 1950s aura and its vintage furniture with lots of white and splashes of colour and could easily be located in a hip district of a large city. In addition to their own products, Michaela sells decorative items, jewellery and kitchenware in the shop. “My sister and I bring everything that we find pretty ourselves—and that you can’t really acquire elsewhere in the region,” Michaela explains the simple concept behind it. In winter, when the goat ‘girls’ are on maternity leave, the shop is closed. It reopens mid-March. Visitors buying cheese from here can take a look at where it actually comes from—and say thank you to the goat ladies in the barn directly.
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