I recently attended the 11th Annual Cheesemaker Education Day, put on by the Oregon Cheese Guild
. It was a busy and fun-filled day, attended by 60 people who learned what a business would need to know to run a successful artisan cheese business.
I was surprised by the amount of paperwork and regulations that mom-and-pop operations are expected to maintain. The first half of the day was awash with legalities, from passing a third-party audit, to the newest and upcoming regulatory updates, to preparing for the FDA Food and Safety Modernization Act
(FSMA). FSMA was signed into law by President Obama in 2011, primarily to ensure the U.S. food supply is safe by shifting the focus from responding to contamination to preventing it. I’m all for prevention.
After sitting through an overview of the red tape and paperwork that goes along with it, I’m amazed we still have small, family farms willing to make cheese. Finding time to care for the farm and all the animals, milking, making cheese, packaging, marketing, getting to the farmers market, making deliveries, plus basic bookkeeping and bill paying (these people have a full day!), add to that business plans, and what seems like having to document every move you make in the correct binder. It all gave me a greater appreciation for every bite of small-farm cheese I enjoy.
I’ve noticed a few places turning to Kickstarter for a little help – it’s the world's largest online funding platform for creative projects. The owners of Full Circle Creamery
, Kate and Brian Humiston, currently have a Kickstarter going with plans to build Independence Creamery
in Independence, Oregon. Kate attended the Cheesemaker Education Day and was recently at our Corvallis store demoing their cheese and talking with people about their plans. They look forward to people visiting them at their new place.
Many cheese factories and farms are open to visitors, so you can watch how the cheese is made, see the animals and, of course, taste the cheese. These visits are well worth the trip. One of the nice things about visiting these places is that you really feel like you can “taste” the environment (OK, try not to think about inhaling in the barn at this moment).
An Oregon State University study
on the terroir of Oregon milk and its impact on cheese flavor were also touched on and discussed. A lot of science was spoken, but what it boils down to is this: We now have scientific proof that you can taste differences in cheese, depending on where the milk comes from. So taste, enjoy, and be thankful. There’s a farmer and cheesemaker out there who’s gone through a lot to make that delicious cheese.