Growing up with a non-cooking mother, my exposure to cheese was woefully limited. I knew American, Velveeta (forgive me!), and the catch-all category of "stinky cheese you can't make me eat." Fortunately, as I matured, so did my palate - but even so, I labored under the impression that most dairy products came from other states. And although that might be true for the common commercial stuff, the Show-Me State actually boasts some wonderful Missouri-made cheeses. I just had to broaden my horizons.
Goat's Milk Cheeses
Baetje Farms, Bloomsdale: Their pride and joy is artisan goat cheese from milk produced by their pure white Saanen goats. Their French-inspired cheeses have won more than 60 national and international awards and have been featured in major publications like the New York Times. Their hormone-free herd is made up of very happy goats, and happy goats make delicious cheese. Check their Facebook page for farmers markets and other places they'll be selling their cheeses, ask your neighborhood grocer to start carrying them or just order direct from the source.
Goatsbeard Farm, Harrisburg: This family farm/commercial goat dairy is dedicated to sustainability and maintaining quality at every stage of production. Their herd of about 50 goats produces the milk from which all their delicious fresh and aged cheeses are crafted, and they do it while protecting water quality, using natural fertilizers and improving biodiversity on the farm. Their fresh rounds, fresh tubs, soft-ripened cheese, feta and aged raw milk cheese are available at select stores and farmers markets around the state.
Cow's Milk Cheeses
Hemme Brothers Farmstead Creamery, Sweet Springs: You can't find this kind of dedication to quality just anywhere, with four brothers getting up at 4 a.m. to take farmstead cheese to a new height. Their claim to fame is start-to-finish fresh and aged cheeses. They're made from milk they produce, from cows they raise that are fed with crops they grow. Check their website for store locations where you can find their award-winning Quark (a fluffy, smooth cheese with just a hint of tang and salt), cheddar and curds.
Shatto Milk Company, Osborn: Take the whole family on a tour of the dairy, the bottling facility and the farm (milk a cow and meet the adorable calves!) which gives you a chance to see how their products go from farm to table. Their country store is open seven days a week with farm-fresh artisan cheeses (be sure to check out their Shatto originals) and an amazing selection of cheese curds: in Cajun flavored, white cheddar, dill flavored cheddar and mushroom garlic cheddar varieties.
Sheep's Milk Cheeses
Green Dirt Farm, Weston: Enjoy a tour of the farm and cheese kitchen, including a glimpse inside the milking parlor of this small sheep dairy northwest of Kansas City. Since the tour meets at their shop in Weston, you'll know right where to go to explore their award-winning (they took six awards at the 2017 American Cheese Society competition) artisan cheeses, including their Aux Arcs (pronounced Ozark), similar to Swiss and made with a blend of sheep's and cow's milk.