Rama Hoffpauir is an accidental cheesemaker. After years of cultivating vegetables, she and husband Josh Bryceson began talking about making their Turnip Rock Farm in Clear Lake, Wis., a self-contained ecosystem.
They decided to add livestock. First, pigs. Then, to feed them, a cow. Turns out, its milk was doing double duty, providing nourishing whey for the pig barn and inspiration for Hoffpauir to try her hand at cheesemaking.
As with so many farming enterprises, a hobby blossomed into a business, one the couple dubbed Cosmic Wheel Creamery. It wasn’t long before shoppers at the Mill City Farmers Market in Minneapolis demanded more of their cheeses, and Bryceson found himself tending a 13-head Jersey herd.
“On a relative scale, we’re very, very, very tiny,” says Hoffpauir. “We’re limited by our land base and the size of our cheese vat. And, it’s just me doing it.”
Hoffpauir learned the art and science of consumer-level cheesemaking at the University of Wisconsin. The syllabus included an apprenticeship, plus extensive self-taught coursework at the school of trial and error.
She currently crafts about a dozen kinds of small-batch, aged, raw-milk cheeses. Her pride and joy is Circle of the Sun, a beauty that’s aged six months and glows with the color of the richest, most expensive butter.
“It just highlights our milk so well,” she says.
Toiling away in her one-woman farmstead cheese plant about an hour east of the Twin Cities might seem a world apart from Hoffpauir’s early career dreams as a sculpture student at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. But she sees a common thread.
“I was really interested in making temporary works, things that were interactive and sensory-based,” she says. “So this is the most perfect thing I could have done with that. I’m working with my hands, and I’m creating something that you get to enjoy, and that lasts as a memory.”