It is a long journey from Switzerland to the Ozarks, but it is a trip Adrian Buff of Ava, Mo., has made more than once.
His parents, Heinz and the late Vroni Buff, moved to Southwest Missouri when Adrian was only 7 years old.
“They were looking for a place with less regulation, a more affordable place to purchase and operate a dairy farm,” Adrian explained.
Today, the Buff family, including Adrian and two of his sisters, Sandra and Kathrin, continues to milk more than 100 Holstein and Brown Swiss dairy cows on their 330-acre Grison Dairy and Creamery in rural Douglas County. When he was 20, Adrian accepted a three-year apprenticeship and returned to Switzerland to learn the art of Swiss cheesemaking. Afterward, he returned to the United States, working on a dairy farm and creamery in Hawaii and also in Illinois, before returning to Missouri.
Adrian makes Grisontaler and Ozark Mutschli cheeses. The name, Grison, comes from their original region of Switzerland and now graces both their farm and cheese operation.
“Grisontaler, a raw milk Swiss-style cheese, has a sweet, nutty flavor and is originally modeled after the Emmentaler from Switzerland. It’s aged over three months.” Adrian explained.
“The Ozark Mutschli cheese is a mild, creamy type, an Alpine-style cheese. The biggest difference comes from the kind of culture used. The Ozark Mutschli is a rind cheese and ages for a month. It uses a special culture that I use to wash it several times during the aging process and that helps to break down the protein.”
Swiss cheese is, of course, famous for the holes in the cheese which comes from the carbon dioxide gas produced in the making of the cheese, and that produces its unique flavor.
“It takes 45 gallons of milk to make two wheels of the Grisontaler cheese, each wheel weighing about 18 pounds,” Adrian said. “Forty-five gallons of milk produces six wheels of the Ozark Mutschli cheese and each of those wheels run 6 to 6 1/2 pounds.”
While Adrian continues to work on the dairy farm at Ava, his cheese-making operation is housed at a facility he rents in Fordland, Mo.
“It takes a certain type of building to do this. Ours has a cheese vat plus two rooms, one that is kept at 55 degrees and the other at 75 degrees,” he said.
Marketing for Adrian’s cheeses includes outlets in St. Louis and Kansas City, as well as Springfield, Mo., locations, at Brown Derby and Mama Jean’s. Other Ozarks locations include Farmers’ Markets in Ava and West Plains, stores in Ava, Mountain Grove, Nixa, Mansfield, Seymour and the Missouri Cheese Outlet in Lebanon.
He also supplies information on the pairings of the best foods, wines, and beers to accompany his cheeses.
“I’d like to add another type of cheese, something between a Gruyere or an Apenzeller,” Adrian said. “We are pretty well maxed out in our current facility so it would involve even more changes. Right now, with this current situation, I think I’ll just have to wait for a while and see how it all works out. Fortunately, our cheeses have a six-month shelf life so that also helps us in this business.”
Adrian also said he and his family continue to be blessed as dairy farmers.
“We have about 20 Brown Swiss and Brown Swiss cross cows and the rest are Holsteins. Holsteins are a quantity producer and the Brown Swiss and Brown Swiss cross give milk that has a higher protein yield, with a better, quality protein, especially for cheese-making,” he explained. “Another Missouri cheese maker once told me, always use blended milk, milk from more than one dairy breed, to produce the best quality cheese.
The family retains their heifers, which are developed by Denis Turner in Hartville, Mo.
“They leave the farm at about 6 months of age until seven-months bred,” Adrian explained. “He does an excellent job. We calve all year round, with the majority coming in the spring or fall but our calf barn is never empty, as we have some winter and summer calves as well. We do all AI. We have several of our cows that are over 10 years old but once they no longer breed, we take them to the Springfield Dairy sale.”
From a dairy producer to a cheese maker, Adrian is happy being in the Ozarks.
“We are fortunate to sell our milk through the Central Equity Cooperative, selling to Kraft and Pacific,” he said. “It’s been really convenient for us, and they’ve been very cooperative, with no objections to our cheese-making operation.”