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. John Esh of Goot Essa (Holiday Cheese and Fudge Gift Basket Giveaway)

      I loved hearing about the different cheeses! I would not have thought apple butter with cheese! I grew up and lived near New Wilmington PA Amish and have several friends there. I sure miss them since I moved to Colorado last year!Thank you for sharing your story.

    2. Dean Costello

      The cheese is pretty good

      I ordered several different cheeses fro, Goot Essa–I found the Mountain Home Smoked Cheddar to be the best of the lot, but I really like smoked cheeses.

      In my cheese frenzy, I regret not having noticed the mustards or the fudges. Ach, next time…

    3. Karen Pollard

      Gorgeous Baskets

      Congratulations to this family for keeping their business going during these challenging times.

      Their baskets of cheeses and assorted other goodies are absolutely beautiful!

      I have not ordered from them before, but I have bought Amish cheese in Pennsylvania when visiting there. The cheese made there is wonderbar!

      Hope to order soon.

    4. Loretta Shumpert

      Goot Essa

      How kind of him to offer a gift basket, a very fine one. The selection contains some really good sounding items. Would be very pleased to receive it. I have not heard of Howard, PA before.

    5. Heather

      A nice gift.

      We will keep this in mind as a gift to give to others. Looks good!

    6. Paula

      Goot Essa

      Innovation & imagination creates opportunity!!! I enjoy exposing my husband to Amish food & culture, so I’m sure we both would be excited to try Goot Essa. Thank you for the kind offer.

    7. Cheese basket giveaway.

      Would love to win.Hoping to visit Pa. this Summer.

    8. Denise

      Gift Baskets

      They look so pretty. I’m sure all the products are delicious.

    9. Love Cheese

      The Cheese and such looks mouth watering!!!! We go to Holmes county every year just for the Cheese and goodies. We would love to try these!!!

    10. David I. Moshier

      I enjoy Amish food products and will definitely bookmark this site!

      1. Patricia Wilkinson

        Love cheese

        These cheese basket are beautiful and look delicious would love to try some. I live near an amish community in PA. Atlantic, PA they are very nice folks

    11. Quality

      These cheese baskets look amazing! Pure goodness.

    12. Holiday cheese and fudge basket giveaway

      Merry Christmas!!!

    13. Holiday cheese and fudge basket giveaway

      Merry Christmas to all !!!

    14. Pam


      Cheese looks delicious. The other products sound good too. Interesting read about the business.
      Merry Christmas!

    15. Donna Liberatori

      Q&A with John Esh of Good Essa

      Formerly of Ephrata Pa, I now live in southern De and miss Lancaster County terribly. I moved here due to my husbands health issues so he could be near the beach. He has since passed on and I long to be back near that beautiful countryside and the peaceful Amish way of life.

    16. Emily J

      These cheeses all look so delicious—I’m looking forward to getting on the website and seeing what I can order for myself and friends&family!

    17. Laura Dunn

      Sheep Cheese!

      Very excited to find a place to get sheep milk cheeses! Can’t wait to try your other cheese as well. Merry Christmas from Tennessee.

    18. Joseph Donnermeyer

      good stuff

      Goot Essa is a pleasant addition to sending gifts other than wine to distant relatives and colleagues. Good to know about it now.

    19. Chris Utley

      Looks great

      Am going to order some for friends, would love the basket for my family!

    20. Robyn Nichols

      Cheese basket giveaway

      Hope everyone there has a very Merry Christmas. Thank you for the chance to win this beautiful gift!

    21. Sounds Delicious!

      We have visited several Amish settlements over the years for fresh vegetables, cheeses and canned goods that are a world apart in quality from store bought. Now I know of another to visit! I have great respect for the Amish for striving to maintain their culture and community in especially hard times right now. The goody basket would be a real treat for any of us.

    22. Alberta Wells


      I just found your site on Face book from Amish America..I just ordered the Christmas Memories..I always read about the Amish and have always wondered how their cheese would taste..I knew they were good cooks..So now I will find out..Wanted to order everything, in fact I did look at one basket with the fudge but changed my mind..I am so glad to have found your site..I am entering this just to see if I can win to get the fudge..lol…

    23. Brenda Higgins

      Thank you

      For the chance to win this beautiful cheese basket. Your products look amazing!!

    24. Marilyn Adams

      Cheese! Lively cheese!

      I thank you for the love and dedication to your craft!
      May you be filled with holiday spirit and have a safe and healthy New Year.

      Marilyn Adams

    25. Thank You!! I would love to win I love fudge and would love to try the cheese

    26. Andrea Lavallee


      This sounds like a really neat business

    27. Millie Williams

      Wonderful to see the business expanding!

      I look forward to reading your posts! I’m so curious about the Amish, have had some small dealings with them and find them delightful! The basket looks wonderful, please thank Mr. Esh for offering to us for a treat! Thank you!

    28. Anne-Marie Ramsey

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

      A blessing that you made a good business decision to keep the family farm in your family. We need more family farms! Your cheeses, condiments, and fudges look delicious. I am hungry looking at the pictures. God bless you and yours.

    29. Brendan Murphy

      Cheese and Fudge Basket

      Boy, does this look delicious. What a great holiday gift!

    30. Kimberly Weekley

      Cheese and Fudge Basket Giveaway

      The cheese and fudge look delicious and I will keep this in mind when I need a gift for friends and family. Thank you for the opportunity to win this basket. Merry Christmas!

    31. Sharon Gerstman

      Cheese and Fudge

      Thank you for the chance to win this wonderful Cheese and Fudge Basket. I love AmishAmerica website. I’ve been visiting the Amish more years than I want to admit. Please keep writing.

    32. Brother J JeremyDominic

      Yes & Thank you.

      Yes, please enter my name for the Goot Essa Basket Giveaway

      mentioned. Thank you.

    33. Brother Jeremy Dominic

      Yes, please enter my name for the Goot Essa Basket Giveaway

      mentioned. Thank you.

    34. Rita


      You’ve definitely started my mouth watering! Would love to win this.❤️

    35. Mark Troyer


      The cheese gift boxes look very attractive and wonderful. I’m originally from Juniata County Pennsylvania from the old order Amish. But I live in North Carolina now

    36. Charlene Gile

      Wonderful Good!

      Your products look wonderful good. I am going to order some Swiss
      Cheese. It’s my favorite. No wonder, my grandmother is Swiss. I guess it’s in my blood. Looking forward to trying some of the other cheeses as well. Aging your cheese in a cave is old world amazing. I hope your business thrives and brings you and others much joy.

    37. Becky

      Goot Essa Country Basket

      What a GREAT ARTICLE about keeping the dairy farm in the family! With more & more small producers being forced out by the commercial farms, this is an encouraging article. Quality is much higher in operations like this. Praying for your future. Cheese makes a great gift. Restaurants buying this high quality cheese will increase business for both.

    38. Anna A.

      Looks delicious!

      Thanks for the great article on this business. The cheeses and everything else looks so good.

    39. Lisa Carroll

      Holiday cheese & fudge gift basket giveaway

      I love Amish cheese!! Never thought to pair it with apple butter. Would love to win the basket and give it a try.

    40. Sandy DeLong

      Beautiful assortment

      Great article on your business and family. Would love to win this beautiful basket and try all the delicious products.

    41. What a treat

      One thing is for sure this would be a wonderful gift for anyone on my list and the history of how the cheese is aged and a family dairy would be so interesting. My family loved Amish cheese and goods and this would be a must have anytime of year or occasion.

    42. Excellent Cheese

      When I first saw Goot Essa advertised, ordered Swiss cheese and others. Received order promptly and found the items delicious. The cheese is so fresh tasting it is hard to stop eating. Then ordered other items and am very pleased with everything. The fudge is wonderful. So for those who have not ordered, do so and you will be very pleased.

    43. Dee Mallett

      Cheese & Fudge Basket Giveaway.... ooooh my!

      So looking forward to ordering some of these wonderful cheeses an more. I grew up in Southwestern PA and visit PA often each year. So happy to read about your awesome cheese making with fellow dairies. Looking forward to trying Der Edel Blue Kase with a Raspberry-Red Beet Spread. I am very intrigued with such a spread. I am harvesting right now my beets and had an ample supply of raspberries this last season. Thank you for such a fine offer. Win or not looking forward to trying many of your cheeses. 🙂

    44. Lydia Good

      Cheese - one of my favorite foods

      I’ve never heard of making cheese from sheep milk. Makes me happy that their business is thriving amidst this pandemic. I would love to sample every one of their cheeses. I will definitely be ordering some online when I can decide which one to go with. I love all the cheddars, especially if they are very sharp. I’m sure I’ll find one that will delight my taste buds.

    45. Jerry

      Great Christmes Gift

      This might solve a few Christmas gift problems I’m having. Is it online ordering or do they have a store I can visit?

    46. Mark Abell

      Looks wonderful

      The cheese basket looks wonderful. I’m sure this family business will do well advertising on this site.

    47. Cynthia Bliss

      Great Cheeses

      They all sound so wonderful that it makes choosing just one so difficult.

    48. Kris B LaraI wish

      I wish I still milked my Guernsey cows.

    49. Betsy Mullan

      I could survive on cheese alone!! (Okay, maybe with some fruits and vegies thrown in occasionally ….).
      Thank you for sharing information about another local business that we can support!

    50. Vivian Furbay

      cheese and fudge sample giveaway

      I’ve heard of goat cheese but not cheese made from sheep’s milk. interesting! Kind of you to have this giveaway!