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Film 'festival' explores cheesemakers' world

The Sandvoss brothers left the California entertainment world behind for the satisfactions of making goat cheese in the wilds of Genesee County.

Now Trystan and Max, the forces behind the First Light Farm artisanal cheeses now sold to 70 stores and restaurants in Western New York, have decided to scratch their filmmakers’ itch.

They’re staging the First Light Farm Film Festival at HandleBar on Aug. 28, featuring “Morning Commute,” a film shot from the perspective of a camera attached to one of their dairy goats. A GoatPro movie, you might say.

Calling it a "festival" is tongue-in-cheek, because there aren't any other entrants. Three short films of four to seven minutes explore the Sandvosses’ world from its epicenter, the East Bethany farm where they maintain a herd of pasture-fed goats, most of whom they’ve cared for from birth, grooming them to provide the raw materials for better cheese.

“The viewer gets to experience their daily journey from out in the pasture, through the barn and parlor for milking and feeding, then back out to pasture,” Trystan said via email.

That could be boring, except goats are cute, and the Sandvosses were filmmakers before they were cheesemakers.

Here's the "Morning Commute" trailer:

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The cheese brothers of East Bethany started with 18 Nubians and French Alpine goats. Now the herd numbers 130, with 67 milkers.  “We added Saanens, which are the pure white Dutch breed, and crossed them with our Nubians and French Alpines,” Trystan said. “Our goal is to create and refine a unique genetic profile that will yield the best possible milk for our cheeses.  As always, we think about our pastures like winemakers think about their grapes.”

“Farm to Table” tracks Max Sandvoss, the younger brother, as he extends the reach of First Light Farm across the region. “At the present, we have over 70 restaurant and wholesale accounts that span from the Niagara escarpment, to top restaurants in Buffalo and Rochester, to the Finger Lakes,” said Trystan. “Max is on the road five days of the week, meeting chefs, store owners and new partners.”

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First Light currently sells 20 kinds of cheese, yogurt and milk, relying on its own goats and cow milk from local organic farms. “Moonshot” is the story of one that hasn’t been released yet, a goat milk Gouda aged six months. It includes what may be the first ever curd-cam shots.

“Because the GoPro has a waterproof case, we were able to sanitize the camera and get a unique POV as milk transforms into cheese, Trystan said.

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The Aug. 28 event, starting at 7:30 p.m., will include a tasting of First Light cheese, including the public unveiling of Moonshot, Trystan said. Admission is free.

The films will be projected onto a 27-foot screen in the lot beside HandleBar, said Sarah Schneider, an owner.  She took one of the Sandvosses' cheesemaking classes three years ago, and her other restaurant, Merge, has been a longtime First Light customer.

A wine tasting will be hosted by Empire Merchants North, a wine distributor, she said, and other food and drink can be purchased at HandleBar and a Lloyd taco truck.

Revisit The Buffalo News' spotlight piece on First Light Farm and the Sandvoss brothers back in December 2011, and find more about the film festival in the event poster below.

first light farm film festival


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