"I love cheese," says Dave Eagle (pictured) , a former products-liability defense lawyer who this month is marking the two-year anniversary of his artisan-cheese company, Eagle Mountain Farmhouse Cheese in Granbury.
After earning his law degree from St. Mary's University School of Law in 1996, Eagle joined Ball & Weed in San Antonio. In 2007, he opened a Granbury solo practice, which he still operates part-time. He used to spend most of his time on depositions, discovery, and litigating and mediating cases, and he was becoming burned out by his 70-hour workweeks as a lawyer. But his life changed in 2008 after he took a trip to southern France. "It really clicked with me how the Europeans live more on a day-to-day basis with their food," Eagle says, noting that the French shopped at local meat markets, vegetable stands and cheese shops. "I came back and just did more and more research on the types of cheeses, the cheese industry, the local scene," he says. His ability to conduct thorough research came in handy as he contemplated launching his company. He found a cheese school in Vermont and completed a workshop in early 2009. Later that year, he used his personal savings to secure a manufacturing space and cheese-making equipment, and he experimented with his cheese recipes at home.
He made his first batch of commercial cheese in January 2010. Eagle Mountain Farmhouse Cheese produces a variety of Gouda cheeses with natural and washed rinds. "I don't make the cheese any more. My son is making the cheese now," says Eagle, adding, "I'm what I would call the frontman. So I'm out visiting with chefs, traveling around Texas basically." Eagle says he thinks many lawyers enjoy "artistic pursuits" but they may not have time for them because of work. "With all the hours they put in, the least they can do is go reward themselves with a nice meal." He says he enjoyed his law practice, but he always represented clients who had been sued — something bad already had happened by the time he entered the picture. And he never got a "warm, fuzzy feeling" when sending a client his bill.
His new life provides a significant contrast. "When someone wants some cheese, that means something good is happening to them. I get more personal satisfaction out of that. . . . It gives them nourishment, and it gives them some pleasure. It enhances their life experience a little bit. I'm not sure I got there with practicing law." He says he has his eye on a new federal law, the Food Safety and Modernization Act, because he thinks it could have a negative impact on small farmers and other artisan-food producers. Notes Eagle, "I may be able to help those guys."
-- Angela Morris