Q-and-A with John Esh of Goot Essa (Holiday Cheese & Fudge Gift Basket Giveaway)

This summer we learned about Goot Essa, an Amish cheese maker in central Pennsylvania.

The business had adapted to the recent disruption and started selling their foods online (with non-Amish help to run the website).

Last week I spoke with Goot Essa’s founder, John Esh Jr.

John has kindly answered some questions – about his business, personal favorite cheeses, his family’s Christmas Day activities, and his Centre County community.

Goot Essa is a new advertiser here, and John has also offered to give away a holiday gift basket to an Amish America reader – this tasty-looking collection, called the Country Basket:

Goot Essa’s Country Basket

Here’s the description:


4 oz. Old German Weissa Kase
4 oz. Mountain Home Woodsmoked Cheddar
4 oz. Garden Pepper Jack
6 oz. Der Weichen Gehl
4 oz. Mountain Valley Sharp Cheddar


1.5 oz. Autumn Dawn Apple Butter
1.5 oz. Sweet & Spicy Dipping Mustard
1.5 oz. Nittany Valley Pure Honey
1.5 oz. Gideon’s Sweet Dipping Mustard


3.5 oz. Old Fashioned Chocolate Fudge
3.5 oz. Creamy Peanut Butter Fudge

Container: 12 x 12 basket

How to Enter to win the Goot Essa Country Basket

If you’d like to enter for a chance to win the Country Basket, simply leave a comment on this post.

I’ll draw the winner at random and announce it here in a separate post on next Monday, December 14.

Holiday Host cutting board assortment

Q-and-A with John Esh Jr. of Goot Essa

Amish America: How did Goot Essa get started?

John Esh: Nineteen years ago – my dairy nutritionist Bob Patton kept asking – how are you going to keep the farm in the family? We have a small dairy herd and realized that we couldn’t compete with the large farms. We considered our options and chose to start making specialty cheeses.

The Esh family farm in Centre County, PA

Amish America: Who are the other families and farms involved in the business?

John Esh: We buy our goat milk from two Amish farm families and the sheep milk from three Amish farm families. We use their milk to make cheese with.

What’s the community like where you live?

We have about 600 Amish families in the four valleys that we live in. There are about 14 Amish youth groups included in the 600 families.

“Our first cheese cave”

Which is your personal favorite cheese or cheeses?

For breakfast with bacon and eggs I enjoy the Mt. Valley Sharp Cheddar. For a snack I enjoy Felsa Yehr with coffee. For lunch Der Weichen Gehl melted on a sandwich. For dinner some Der Edel bleu Kase with steak.

What are your family’s favorite cheeses?

Old German Weissa Kase with apple butter, Marn vom Berge Kase with strawberry cranberry preserve, Der Edel Bleu Kase with raspberry-red beet spread.

Christmas Pleasures gift basket

Why do customers like your cheese? What do they tell you?

They generally are people who appreciate good quality food. They say it is rare to find so many outstanding/high quality cheeses from one small producer.

What are the gift baskets like?

45 different assortments featuring our 19 cheeses, 13 condiments, 5 fudges. A wide range of cutting boards, handmade Amish baskets, wooden crates.

Christmas Morning basket

How has your family & community been handling the 2020 covid situation?

School was shut down this spring for the last 7 weeks. We had no church services for about 8 weeks.

How do you and your family usually spend Christmas Day and the season?

We enjoy all being together on Christmas Day singing songs, visiting, and enjoying cheese and charcuterie and dessert plates.

Goot Essa cheese shop

What’s one lesson or thing you’ve learned while running Goot Essa?

I’ve met some really nice people – chefs at the restaurants that we work with who also enjoy showing me what they make.

Christmas Party basket

Where can people get your cheese and baskets, and which are some of your most popular items?

Some of the most popular: Mt. Valley Sharp Cheddar, Cheese Lover’s Dream, Country Basket, Country Party. (800) 490-4387, gootessacheese.com

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    1. Judy Sepp

      Goot Essa Cheese Story

      I love the stories on this website and look forward to each new posting. This story was particularly good because of my love for cheese. Hopefully we can visit the store when we are near there again. Thanks for all the great stories; keep them coming!

    2. Beverly Hilley

      Love cheese

      Would love to sample your cheese basket. Would make great gifts later. Do you have farms in North Carolina? Near Lake Lure. Im reading and learning your way of life. How inspiring you are to me. Thank you for your site sharing with us.
      God Bless,

    3. Elizabeth L Butler

      About giveaway

      I love
      your story it helps hearing it especially.Today when I needed to hear it because I am having a hard time this holiday season and I know so many other people are too but there is always hope and faith. Merry Christmas and God bless everyone


      Live trying new cheeses

      I love good cheese and look forward to trying some new varieties.

    5. Char Nielsen

      Goot Essa Indeed!

      Wow! That ALL looks like Goot Essa!!!!
      I’m going over to the website right now to check it out!
      Thank you for sharing with us. Best wishes in you business and Merry Christmas to you & your family.

    6. Joyce Moul


      So much cheese that you order online ends up tasting like Wax! It’s good to have local cheese that tastes the way cheese is supposed to taste, fresh and local.

    7. Daniel Yoder

      Goot Essa

      Coming full circle, making cheese as did the Amish ancestors centuries ago back in Switzerland. Probable a lot greater variety, though.

    8. Laura Buckles

      welcome good news

      In this year of all years it’s encouraging to hear about small businesses doing well. And they’re also in turn helping other small businesses around them. Looks like a great way to live, too.

    9. Dawn L Sutton

      Looks Delicious

      It’s wonderful to see small dairy farmers making their own products. The survival of our dairy industry in Pennsylvania depends on these small farms being creative.

    10. Perfect

      There are so many perfect looking gift treats from this company

    11. Jemima A Schinnerer

      Very Nice

      The basket looks great. I hope he does well with sales through your site.

    12. Julia Reffner


      Admirable the way your company adapted from its start and with the economy this year. Nothing better than local and small, going back to the roots. It sounds delicious!



      I love Cheese! Thank you for the chance to win this!

    14. David Treusch

      Please enter me in the giveaway

      We learned of the Goot Essa company from earlier email link to article.
      My wife and I visited the Esh farm last month. Absolutely beautiful farm, spotless production facility was amazing (particularly enjoyed samples trays). Employees were all very friendly and outgoing to answer all our questions. Tour of the cheese cave was really cool (slight pun intended!).

      The quality of the cheeses is definitely at a gourmet level. We took care of our family Christmas shopping. Also, purchased a considerable sample of cheeses to enjoy ourselves!
      Highly recommend the Goot Essa products, and in-person farm visit if you are in the area.

    15. Will crook

      Good stuff

      Wish they were closer.

    16. Heidemarie Berna


      The gift baskets you showed in you article are very beautiful. May have to order a gift or two

    17. Anne Dunkley

      Beautiful basket

      We would love to win this basket – and wish we were closer to visit your farm.

    18. Bill Theroux

      Great article

      Thank you for sharing

    19. sylvie

      goot essa means eat well I think … this basket is very pretty and I find it very good that the Amish are diversifying and producing quality food. Do you know the “munster d’Alsace” it is a cheese rather strong in flavor with cow’s milk.
      I wish you a very nice Christmas party and God bless you.

    20. Pam Kedderis

      Lovely Basket

      This holiday gift basket looks absolutely delicious! It’s so nice to read about a small family business succeeding with ingenuity!

    21. Wonderful experience

      We visited Goot Essa in early November. Wonderful experience. The cheese is delicious and the facility amazing. Such a friendly place. They even gave us a tour of the cheese caves. We left there with every cheese that they make along with gifts for family and friends. If you are in the area, definitely worth stopping.

    22. Sonja Leiter

      How nice that basket is..Would like to win that.

      What a wonderful basket that is, like the different cheese’s and dips.

    23. Terry Burk

      Fantastic Professional Basket

      Growing up in Illinois, I had so many friends that were Amish. Therefore, I have an affinity to the Amish way of life, and quality foods. I missed that during my time in the military, and ended up in Maine where I have sought out the three Amish Communities that settled there which is nearby my home in New Hampshire. I have not had an opportunity to sample Goot Essa products, and would love to sample the products in your gift basket. Thank you for this opportunity.

    24. Susan Keriacos

      So happy to learn Goot Essa is able to once again sell their products! Even I if I don’t win, I’ll be sure to order and support them.

    25. Becky McCoy

      I would absolutely love to win this basket!! What a wonderful gift. I love to visit Amish towns! Thank you for the chance.

    26. Tara

      Lovely article, great interview, all looks delicious

      I have several friends in Howard, PA. Lovely area near Bellefonte and State College. Excellent food and really good recipes. Do find time to travel to Goot Essa!

    27. Marvin Smith

      Good food

      I have visited some of the Amish places and had lunch at three different ones they have very good food. the cheese and fudge guft basket would be great.

    28. Susan Abbott

      Love Amish businesses

      I love Amish businesses and love that Goot Essa is available to those of us put of state. The Company is keeping with Amish values, while having someone else run the website. I say that is Goot! I would love to sample all the goodies they create. Thank you.

    29. Goot Essa

      I really enjoy reading your posts & looking at the pictures. Thank-you for sharing I love cheese & every one sounds delicious as does all the items in the giveaway. I wish the Esh family a wonderful 2021 filled with joy, happiness & a great business year. Merry Christmas to the Esh family & to you Eric.


      Your cheeses and gift baskets look absolutely delightful. I would love to win a basket!!
      Thank you!!!

    31. Basket giveaway

      Would love to have the cheese and fudge basket. Amish photos and novels are some of my favorites.

    32. Kathryn Maguire

      Please count me in!

      Thank you for the chance at winning this delicious cheese. I used to live in Lancaster County, and really miss everything about it.

    33. Kathryn Maguire


      This all sounds so delicious!! Thank you for the opportunity to win!!

    34. Lynn Woodrow

      Thank you for the opportunity to win the wonderful cheese basket! I hope that you have continued success. It is so nice to see a small business succeed in this day and age. Thanks Lynn

    35. May It come back to you ten fold!

      The Bible says give and it will come back to you ten fold. This is such a nice idea for the Christmas season and I know it will bring a lot of happiness to some family. I hope your generosity does come back to you ten fold. Looking forward to trying your cheeses.

    36. Grace

      This is great

      This is a great idea! I hope they do well and prosper, especially this Christmas gift-giving season!

    37. Anxious to try your cheeses and condiments!

      I’ve been studying your site and am anxious to order different cheeses and condiments. Being on a disabled paycheck, it is difficult to try as much as I want, as quickly as I want, but I will do it! Winning your cheese and fudge gift basket would surely help! 🙂

      Thank you for making yourself known to the public.

      Jewell Schaefer

    38. Karen von Bargeb

      Great post!

      It’s good to read about strong community spirit and working together successfully working together. Thanks for this!

    39. Georgia Thompson

      What a wonderful opportunity to have a taste of pure foods made the old-fashioned way, something that is lacking in the over commercialized world of food today.
      I think I’d probably break the basket up and share the items with an elderly shut-in friend who appreciates good food.
      Blessings to the winner whom ever it may be.

    40. Laura Raigoza

      Looks delicious! Would love to win!

    41. Penelope Ray


      The gift baskets make beautiful gifts! I’d enjoy winning one to share on Christmas.

    42. Leisa Price

      Those cheeses looks yummy!

      My husband and I love cheese and your cheeses look yummy. I would love to win your basket. Blessings to you and yours.

    43. Wesley Gammill

      Cheese sampler giveaway

      I enjoy reading about all the different Amish communities. I live near the one in Randolph, MS and was surprised and pleased when you did a feature on them. My wife and I have been to a good portion of the settlements around the country and have made many good friends. Thanks again.


      I will be ordering some of this for gifts, and also for myself.

    45. Alecia Ernst

      Cheese basket looks delicious

      I enjoyed this article. I know about goat cheese but didn’t know about cheese made from sheep milk. I haven’t tried either. Glad the family is having much success.

    46. Ann Rose

      Oh I’m drooling!

      What a wonderful basket. Being elderly, at least that’s what they tell me, my husband and I have not been able to travel to the Amish areas to get our fix of peacefulness because of the pandemic. We’re looking forward to the vaccine so we can get back to traveling to these good eating areas. This basket would help to tide us over til then.

    47. Barbara Wendel

      Great Gift Ideas

      I really enjoyed learning about how your business was started, and what a great variety of cheeses you make. Food baskets are always a great choice as a gift. I think everyone appreciates quality foods. Thank you for sharing this information.

    48. Kym Snarr

      Looks so good!

      The assortment of cheeses you offer looks amazing! I’ll definitely have to get some for my family!

    49. Debra Clarke

      I would love to win the basket! I love all things Amish and hope to move to Lancaster PA when I retire. I am going to check out the Goot Essa website now!

    50. Doreen is Vaughn

      Cheese & Fudge Giveaway

      I always get cheese and fudge when I visit places like Berlin, Sugar Creek, and Walnut Creek. Would love to taste your varieties for sure and certain.