J2K Capraio - The Klinedinst Family Farm in Walkerton

By+Kathy Jonas, Photos by David Hubler

A passion for food, people, goats and cheese led Josiah (Joe) and Jody Klinedinst to expand their popular stall at the South Bend Farmers Market into a nearby storefront – Oh Mamma’s On the Avenue Gourmet Cheese Shop & Deli. 

While the couples’ cheese repertoire numbers more than 200, their locally-made chévre or goat cheese is as beloved as their 21 milking goats (50 total) raised on their Walkerton farmstead. This creamy, fresh cheese has become so popular with customers that it often sells out quickly. It is called J2K Capraio (their initials and the word for goatherd in Italian).

“It’s a dream and a passion that most people wouldn’t strive for or have the ambition for,” Jody said laughingly. “We spend two hours a day milking and about four to five hours a day taking care of the goats.”

The chévre being produced now takes about three days to make. The process – greatly simplified – involves low-temperature pasteurization, adding a culture, ripening it overnight, separating the whey from the curd when draining it, putting it in different shapes, seasoning it and packaging it. 

The Klinedinsts are among an elite group of Indiana farmers who own and operate a commercial Goat Dairy and Farmstead Creamery.

The couple quickly acknowledges that none of this would be possible without their three children – Sofia, 11; Joey, 9, and Frances, 4 – who voluntarily (and wholeheartedly) work at the farm and at the shop. On a recent very hot summer afternoon, they ran from the car to the house after school, quickly changed clothes and ran out to the barn with big smiles on their faces. In fact, the smiles rarely go away. 

It’s a labor love for the three. Frances, who is just learning to write, draws a picture of her favorite goat and confides that it is a “French Alpine.” Joe and Sofia both saved up enough money to buy their own goats and Sofia recently received three reserve grand championships while showing does in Fort Wayne.

Some of their favorite goats: Blue Moon, B1 Bombshell, Paige, Micah, Majesty and Time to Fly.

“The kids (not to be confused with the baby goats) help a lot with the animals, caring for them, watering them, giving them hay,” Joe said. They also help bottle-feed the babies born in the spring. Sofia is helping in the shop, serving gelato and assisting customers. “They have gained confidence, look adults directly in the eye, understanding that the customer is always right, and can handle basic math problems and transactions,” Jody added. 

“Sofia begs to go. She takes pride in what we do for a living and it shows, ” Joe said. That was evident when the interview concluded and all three children insisted on shaking hands and saying ‘thank you.’ 

The Klinedinsts started at the Farmers Market seven years ago while Joe worked in the corporate world and Jody was a stay-at-home mom. Not sure if they wanted to do it fulltime, they gradually realized how much people hungered for artisan cheeses and cured meats. 

Both grew up in the agricultural world. Joe’s father, Joseph, passed away 10 years ago and, unfortunately, was not able to see his son follow in his footsteps. 

“Pop” taught Joe goat husbandry, milking and cheese making.  His Italian grandmother, now 91, also had a huge influence on his love of food and entertaining.

Jody is proud to be called a fifth-generation farmer and grew up in  crop and livestock farming. So most of this life they’ve created comes naturally. They did a lot of research and have traveled in Italy and Europe and admired the business model based on small farms, small shops and impeccable customer service.

“Ten years ago we were in Italy. It was four in the morning.” Joe said.  “I woke up and heard all these things happening on the street. I went out and saw lights on in the businesses, fish coming in from the ocean, bread being baked, produce being loaded on bicycles getting ready to be delivered. Everything was being done so that the food would be ready that day. It was unbelievable.”

They started small at the market and now as many as 14 people can be lined up at their booth, with numbers in hand. Joe and Jody opened the cheese shop down the street from the market when customers told them they would like to be able to shop there every day of the week, not just the days that the market is open. Their customers often drive from Chicago.

University of Notre Dame football weekends are particularly busy, but the family loves the energy and excitement that comes to South Bend in the fall. 

They also love their customers and find that cheese is such a complex product that they are continuously learning. “Our customers have a huge knowledge base,” Jody said. “We’re not cheese snobs by any means. It can be an intimidating thing, but we want people to try new things and new flavors and we encourage that.”

The family hopes to expand their goat cheese selection in the spring (the goats and the family take a break in January and February) by adding washed-rind, soft-ripened goat cheese and some blue cheese. Joe and Jody have a licensed, separate commercial kitchen at the farm with an emphasis on cleanliness, quality and flavor. 

“Of course you don’t eat an entire wheel of cheese,” Jody said with a laugh. “It’s a lot like enjoying beer or wine with food.“

 

For more information about Oh Mamma’s Deli & J2K Capraio, find them on facebook: “Oh Mamma’s” or “J2K Capraio”, or stop in at their shop located at 1212 Beyer Avenue in South Bend (we guarantee one delicious sample won’t be enough!)









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