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. Free basket give away

      It certainly looks yummy

      1. Good afternoon

        Your basket look tremendous. I just lost my 95 year old father Wednesday and could use some wonderful comfort food that is in your basket.

      2. Angela Dimella

        Free giveaway

        It looks delicious. I was thinking of trying some of your cheeses but couldn’t make up my mind on which ones!

    2. free basket giveaway

      That basket makes me hungry ( yummy)

    3. Victoria H Gibbs

      Goot Essa Cheese Looks tasty!

      While I have been to Amish Country in the Lancaster area of Pennsylvania, I haven’t been able to travel this year (due to Covid-19). It’s my wish to take my daughter and grandson to the area when travel is safer, as they love to take trips with me. I am glad that your website keeps us up to date on good places to visit. This looks like a delicious way to taste the Goot Essa products, and I have to say I always enjoy reading Amish America. Please keep up the good work and thanks for the “virtual tours” which are very interesting!

      Merry Christmas to you and your family!

    4. Johanna t Santore

      Boy, this looks delicious

      This basket looks delicious! I could live on fudge, and my vegetarian granddaughter is a real cheese eater. Would love to have this.

    5. Lori

      Gift Basket Giveaway

      Look forward Amish America’s posts. Can’t wait to visit PA. Definitely on my bucket list.

    6. Joanne

      Free Basket Giveaway

      Cheese looks delicious. Love the information I read about on this website.

    7. Lee Kraft

      basket giveaway

      Would be very happy to win this basket and would share with others. I live near the Spartansburg, Atlantic, and Frenchtown/Cochranton PA communities. We have Amish plumbers and tackshop/tack repair shops and furniture shops and of course,many other business people. We used to have an Amish horseshoer in our area, but he has moved to NY state, I understand.

    8. Always great items at Goot Essa

      What a great way to try the great items at Goot Essa! These items would make a terrific addition to my holiday table. So glad I enjoy reading Amish America or I would have missed this opportunity. Wishing all a blessed Christmas

    9. Donna Crowl

      My Amish Ancestors

      My Grandpa Verkler was from Amish/Mennonite parents in Southern Illinois. I am so interested in this side of my family I started doing my family tree some 30 years ago. Growing up my Mom used to say we were Pennsylvania Dutch. Now I know what that means!
      Sincerely, Donna Mae Crowl

    10. Robin

      Holiday Cheese & Fudge Gift Basket Giveaway

      It would be good to get the basket. Cause you would get something made in the United States. Plus getting it from a handmade hands of God’s people. Right now getting some great items from get from the Amish people. I hope I win.

      Thank You

    11. Donna Crowl

      Free Basket Giveaway

      Thank you for letting me enter for a chance to win! From a cheese loving person!
      Sincerely, Donna Mae

    12. Grew up near Amish

      Would love to win. Haven’t been able to return to Amish country (Jamesport, MO) in almost 10 years.

    13. Jennifer L Pettit


      Your products look delicious, and I am certain they probably taste delicious, as well! I thoroughly enjoy reading the articles on Amish America. Thank you so much! Christmas Blessings!

    14. Cheyenne Russo

      I would love to win the gift basket. It would make a great Christmas gift.

    15. Linda Glenn

      I love cheese

      This is a pretty basket of cheese and fudge and condiments. I have been to a Amish community and bought some of the products that they have made and I have never been disappointed. But I never had any of the cheese that the Amish make would love to try some. Thank you so much for this giveaway. And I love reading about the Amish on your site.Amish America. Merry Christmas.

    16. Joan Lee Kuhl

      Amish Best

      Everything Amish is always delicious. Anytime, anywhere always the right choice. Amish cheese prepared with attention to detail.

    17. Pat Thompson

      John Esh Q and A

      I find Amish and Amish foods interesting. Thank you for a chance for a sample.

    18. Karen M Larsen

      Thank you for having this contest!

      I sure hope I win! This sounds delicious!

    19. Karen Larsen

      Thank you for having this contest!

      I sure hope I win! This sounds delicious!

    20. Linda Ortiz

      Looks Wonderful

      The Cheese basket looks delicious. Thank you for the giveaway.

    21. B kegebein

      Cheese giveaway

      Thanks for entering me for the cheese giveaway

    22. Count me in. Love to have the Goot Essa Cheese & Fudge Basket!

      Looks goot to me! Love reading the Amish America. I have Amish in me also. I live in Iowa. My mother used to make fudge every Christmas. She made so much to pass out at Christmas. She’s 82 now and doesn’t make it so much. I miss it. I never learned how to make it the way she did.

      1. Opps!

        Sorry for the ‘amp;’ mistake . Don’t know where that came from.

    23. Looks delectable!

      Merry Christmas and thank you for the opportunity to win your wonderful basket.

    24. Randell Dietrich

      Good Eating (Goot Essa)

      Growing up in Chester County, PA our family employed the Amish and went to school with them. Looking forward tasting their unique Amish made cheeses.

    25. Rhonda

      Looks delicious

      Wow, your cheeses look delicious

    26. Looks sooooo good!

      Thanks so much for providing this yummy looking basket of Amish goodies for some lucky person to win. I love learning about the Amish culture and visiting Amish communities when we have the opportunity. I have visited the Lancaster County, PA communities but have never been to your area of the state. I even collect Amish cookbooks and try to add to my collection every chance I get! Again, thank you for this opportunity and Merry Christmas!!

    27. Lory Thornton

      Basket Giveaway

      I’ve been to Ohio and Kentucky Amish country and can’t wait to visit PA next year. Will definately be stopping here!

    28. T.Ruth

      Holiday Cheeses :)

      Thank you, Erik for all of your efforts in producing & blessing all of us with this website. We look forward to all of the notifications. How great that the Esh’s are able to bless others with their products & sustain the families that provide the products. We need other small businesses to follow suit… Merry Christmas & May all of us be blessed with a better New Year. I adore sheep dairy products and would love to be blessed with this box of goodies 😉

    29. Dorothy Borders

      Amish newsletter

      I have enjoyed reading this column for quite awhile. There are more than one communities in my area and I appreciate being able to learn more about them. Winning the cheese basket would be a wonderful surprise and I appreciate it being offered.

    30. Cindy Jines

      John Esh of Goot Essa Q & A

      Are all your cheeses made from goat milk or do you also use cow’s milk? I’m curious because I’ve never had cheese made with goat’s milk and find it very interesting. I wondered if you can tell any differences in the taste. I hear alot about goat milk items being good, but haven’t found anyone selling food items that make them like the Amish. I know the Amish take pride and care in their products when making them, but not in a bad way where it makes them prideful. I have used skin products made from goat’s milk while going through breast cancer, and have found them to be amazing, as well as much better than off the shelf name brands and store brands!! Thank you for this Q & A and all you do!!

    31. A. Buell

      Looks Yummy

      This looks like a delicious assortment of goodies our family would love to eat.Thank you for offering it.

      Merry Christmas!

    32. Brian Buckta


      I can hardly wait to dig in…

    33. Mark Stahl


      I sure do love my cheese!!!

    34. Claire Doyle

      Amazing Amish Food

      This looks absolutely wonderful, I look forward to purchasing some of your amazing looking cheeses!

    35. June

      Cheese basket

      Oh my… I’d feel like I was in Heaven with this cheese… It takes me back to my youth and also my trip to France trying all the different cheese varieties.
      It looks absolutely wonderful.

    36. Karen Starkings

      Amish Cheese Tray Giveaway

      Try their cheese. It’s super delicious.

    37. Linda Casper

      Goot Essa

      I would like to win that basket and share it with my family.

    38. Janet Lloyd


      I love cheese! My grandma always had sliced cheese at the table for meals. I would love to win, but if I don’t, may order some or come visit the shop! Always good to see family businesses expanding.

    39. Janie

      Cheese basket

      What a nice thought to do! Many have lost their jobs, including I, thru this tragedy.
      Good luck to you in your business, and thank you for your kindness. This will help as Christmas presents.

      Be well,

    40. Janet Lambert


      I love cheese! My grandma always had sliced cheese at the table for meals. I would love to win, but if I don’t, may order some or come visit the shop! Always good to see family businesses expanding.

    41. Claudia Dzuba

      Goot Essa giveaway

      Thanks for sharing about this Amish Cheese Maker and all the wonderful looking products they produce.

    42. Cheese - the ultimate snack

      I love cheese.In fact, it’s a family thing. My kids were raised to value cheese and crackers over cookies and candies. My son passed that on to his children. I would love to win this giveaway. Right now finances are very tight. Otherwise I would be buying my brother a gift of Goot Essa for Christmas. Maybe things will loosen up for me next year.

    43. Holly Huff

      Holiday gift basket

      Love the fresh made cheese. Will have to stop in next time I am i. That area!!

    44. Eugenia McQueen

      From a Cheese LOVER!

      I would SO love the opportunity to receive this basket for many reasons, one of which is to begin learning about specialty cheeses – – and these would come from a source I would love to “get to know’.

    45. Rachel D.

      giveaway basket

      Thank you for the opportunity to win this cheese basket. LOVE cheese, especially Goot Essa. Yummo. With the PA covid restrictions, we haven’t been able to go to Lancaster for food shopping this year. I am SO missing the local food. And how can you go wrong with dessert in the same basket as the cheese??? I have dinner planned already!

    46. Cheese giveaway

      The cheese giveaway display looke wonderful

    47. Denise


      I like how the Amish are not reluctant to diversify their means of income. Those gift baskets look like success to me! Please enter my name in the drawing.

    48. Denise Stepp

      I am hungry already

      I would so love to win this. I am from Amish heritage, but we moved to Florida so long ago and I miss the best food available!! I would love to share this with my children, along with the stories and recipes I already share with them to keep our heritage alive.

    49. Sara

      Basket giveaway

      Would certainly enjoy winning the basket. Sounds like a wonderful selection. During these difficult times receiving this basket would help out immensely.

    50. Carol Kumbera

      Cheese & Fudge Gift Basket

      This gift basket looks so nice…would love to be the blessed recipient. I am going to look at your website and will probably order some products. My husband and I are avid cheese eaters. Thank you for what you do!