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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      Cheese Lover

      I have never heard of most of your cheeses so I would love to win the basket of goodies so I can try the cheeses and your other goodies. Merry Christmas and a Healthy and Happy New Year

    2. Sunflower


      Cheese was always my favorite food. These cheese baskets remind me of my mother’s father. He would buy ones like these every winter. I remember him sitting in his chair with cheese, sausage, and a sharp knife. He would cut a slice off right into his mouth! My mother got mad when he ate it that way. Haha!

    3. Roxanne Giovannini

      Wonderful Amish Cheese

      I am looking forward to trying your cheeses. I would love to win and to share this experience with my friends. Thank you.

    4. Betsy Hardesty

      Looks good to me

      I will definantly be checking them out!!!

    5. Monroe Hunsberger

      Cheese and Fudge!!!

      I love cheese and would love to win this prize.

    6. Beth


      What could be better! Cheese and Fudge! This would be the best gift ever!

    7. Margaret S Fry-Nolte

      Cheese and Fudge

      Several favorites – cheese, fudge and apple butter. YUM!

      Thank you for the Q&A too.

    8. Stephanie Heston


      Looks really good!

    9. Jackie VanderLugt

      Gift Basket

      Thank you for sharing a bit of your specialty with us. We live in an area with a fairly large Amish group. We are so blest to have such wonderful neighbors. Whoever wins this will be blest as well.


      a Great Find!

      I wish this place was close to where I live. I so look forward to trying these items listed in the basket so a win would help me get started.

    11. Janet M Hvizdos

      Amazing Amish

      I truly admire the fortitude of the members of the Amish Communities as you can live in this World and not be of this World. I wish every food producer would provide food that is a high quality like your company does. Your farm is in Central Pennsylvania and I live in the Southwestern part of the State. Are there any stores that carry your products in this area? I was thinking of Lapp’s in Latrobe. I would love to try your cheeses as I am certain I would enjoy them. Thank you for the generous prize. God bless you with health and safety during this difficult time.

    12. Dianne Casey

      I don’t live near any Amish communities. Love cheese and fudge. Would really enjoy trying the cheese and fudge.

    13. Karen Biddle

      Cheese! Glorious Cheese!!!

      Oh my! This cheese looks heavenly! I basically live on cheese! Can’t get enough of it and have never had sheep’s milk cheese would ❤️❤️❤️To win this to share with my family! (Well some of it)! Lol!! I wish you well in your business and will absolutely look into having some sent or taste test soon! Merry Christmas! May the Lord’s Blessings continue to shine upon you!

    14. Debbie Maggio

      Applause you for great cheese making

      All the different types of cheese sound amazing and would love to try them along with the fudge. Merry Christmas!

    15. Sandra Rogaskie

      Looks yummy

      What lovely business you have and able to offer online sales now. I haven’t heard of some of your type cheeses and would love to try them. Also, I’ve never heard of a cheese cave, how interesting. What exactly does it do?

    16. wen budro

      So Much Deliciousness!!!

      Wow…all of their products look so delicious. I love discovering high quality cheese. I am bookmarking their website.

    17. Janice Moon


      I would love to be considered for the cheese and fudge basket. God Bless you for doing this. Someday I want to visit Amish country.

    18. Pam Higgins

      diet? who cares!!???

      Being on a high cholesterol diet isnt fun but you know what? im willing to die happy after eating this stuff! Bring it on GOOT ESSA!

    19. Nanci Smith

      Love cheese

      I developed a love for cheese when I was in Holland. Your business seems the way to try some good homemade cheese. I look forward to being able to order some now that I am aware of it.
      Seasons Blessings to you & your community.

    20. Melinda Marks

      Different Cheeses

      Thank you for doing a question and answer. Some of your cheeses are new to me.

    21. I like supporting small business.

      Your products sound delicious!

    22. Cheeses

      It would be an honor to win this cheese and fudge basket. I didn’t know some cheeses are made with sheep’s milk.

    23. I think this Cheese Basket needs to....

      …go on vacation to us in Sarasota! please sign us up…

    24. Debbie Byrd

      Awesome Foods

      I miss living near the Amish community when I can get the best foods and cheeses. When I was young we used to go out to the Amish farm at milking time and get our glass jugs filled with milk. Oh the cream on top. The best milk I’ve ever drank. Thank you for the opportunity to win your wonderful basket of deliciousness. May God bless and keep you safe.

    25. Kathy Allen

      Basket Giveaway

      Have a blessed year !!

    26. B. Heil

      I Can't Wait!

      to try your cheeses! Glad to learn about you.

    27. Goot Essa

      Love love love Amish foods. Brings me back to my childhood in Pa.

    28. Jeff Cromwell


      Interesting interview! The man is a true businessman! I eat chesse of some type everyday and would love to try the product.

    29. Derek Stratelak

      Who makes th he fudge?

      What types of fudge do you include in the gift boxes and is it Amish made?

    30. Brett m Sweeney

      Cheese giveaway

      I live about an hour away from Amish country in Holmes County. My mother and I would make the trek every Sunday. She just loved to watch the horses pull the buggies and commented how beautiful the horses were. I love cheese from that region, especially baby Swiss! I would love to win the basket. Thank you and have a safe and healthy holiday season.

    31. larry rase

      LUV LUV LUV Cheese

      I am more than excited to try your specialty cheese’s. I am totally fascinated by Amish living and food making.

      I hope to be the winner of this offer. I will also buy your other cheese products.
      Thank-You, Larry Rase

    32. Dolores C. Bachman

      All i can say is yummy

    33. Deb


      This basket looks so delicious, I have to put my 2 cents worth in also… Merry Christmas & Happy New Year to all!

    34. Tracy Blogna

      Interesting Article!

      Your cheese looks delicious! God’s many blessings on you and your family this Christmas season!

    35. Holly


      Finally, a cheese with WHOLESOME ingredients!
      Thank you for letting us know about this.

    36. Pamela Schall

      holiday giveaway

      The cheeses look delicious as does all of your products. Am glad to find this website and read your stories.

    37. Great baskets!

      I enjoyed reading what cheeses John enjoys eating with different foods, and especially what he likes to eat with a cup of coffee. Great post! The fudge sounds yummy too. My dad used to go to Archibald, Ohio and bought big quantities of cheese for us to eat. It was good but yours sounds even better.

    38. Karen Mahoney

      What a wonderful business!

      I actually had planned to order from them because I love cheese so much. I had a whole bunch On my list but then I lost my job and broke my wrist on the same day. So I had to forgo my order. I would love to win this cheese On my list but then I lost my job and broke my wrist on the same day. So I had to forgo my order. I would love to win this cheese & fudge Basket. It might make a very difficult Christmas season a whole lot better

    39. Holiday Cheese & Fudge Gift Basket Giveaway

      I left Amish country in Holmes Co. Ohio when I was 18 to go into Air Force. Christmas morning always had cheese and treat baskets growing up. I am retired now but haven’t had a cheese combo basket since leaving home. It would be great to win a basket to have for my kids who come for Christmas this year.
      I could share my memories while enjoying it and hopefully create new ones for my growing family.

    40. Marci Morey


      What a generous offer to provide the giveaway. I I am not familiar with some of the flavors in the basket and it would be fun to try them. I’ll check out this business.


    41. Aj

      Looks good and I congratulate you on your speciality in the area of cheese making. Cheese is one of those foods that is crafted. I’m not interested in winning this basket and even if I did win, I would ask that it be given to someone else in the comments. I will order one of the baskets though. They look like high quality products and I know that it would go to supporting a small business and family.

    42. Christina Amos

      Would really enjoy this basket!

      Sign me up for this basket! Yummy!

    43. Crystal Baker

      Loving Goot Essa Cheese

      We live in the area of Goot Essa and two years ago had the opportunity to visit the business on a local farm tour that they participated in. We also had the chance to have Mr. Esh serve as a tour guide of the facility and cheese cave. We immensely enjoyed samples of their wide variety of cheese and products as well as their wonderful hospitality. We look forward purchasing Goot Essa products for gifts for family and friends.

    44. Valerie Crook

      Good Cheese

      I would love to visit one day!

    45. Melanie Adams

      Sounds so delicious

      Cheese and fudge, yum! Thank you for entering me in your drawing. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone. May God bless you all abundantly, and may 2021 be a much better year than 2020.

    46. eula grinstead

      Shareable Gift

      I now live in Assisted Living, but my husband and I used to visit nearby Amish farms in Southern Kentucky to buy fresh produce,spring flowers, and baskets. We enjoyed those outings. Your cheese, condiment, and fudge basket sounds delicious and if I win, I would share with my neighbors in Assisted Living. I love the articles I read.

    47. Paula B

      Favorites! Cheese and Fudge!!

      What a great treasure to give away!!

    48. ivy goetjen

      I love the personality of the basket, the seriousness of the cheese with the sweetness of the chocolate ,great job

    49. Jean S. Kessler


      All of your cheeses and fudge look so appealing! I’m sure they are ‘wunnerful goot’ because they are so well made. I would love to taste some!
      Thank you.

    50. Entry for Charlene A

      This comment counts as an entry for Charlene A, who wrote me that she was having trouble commenting.