CHEESEMAKER BACKGROUND INFORMATION FDA LISTENING SESSION February 11, 2016
Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Point Reyes, California
Presenter: Lynn Giacomini Stray
Tobias Giacomini left Northern Italy to farm land in Northern California in 1904, and four generations later, the Giacomini family is still passionate about connecting with, and protecting the land. In 1938, Tobias’s son, Waldo, moved his family to Point Reyes, California; and in 1959, Waldo’s son Bob purchased a dairy farm, just 3 miles north of his parent's own farm, to sell milk to the local creamery. Bob and his wife Dean started with 150 cows and raised the herd to over 500 by the mid-1990s. Bob had a dream to make cheese, and with the help of his four daughters Karen, Diana, Lynn, and Jill, that dream was realized in August 2000, when the first wheels of Original Blue, California’s only classic style blue cheese, were made. Today, in addition to their award winning cheeses, Point Reyes has expanded to offer farm-to-table educational experiences at The Fork, a culinary and educational center at the farm. The family’s goal is to share their appreciation of farm-fresh food and their love for the land, water conservation, sustainability, and land stewardship. In 2009, they installed a methane digester to provide renewable energy on the farm while reducing its carbon footprint. In addition, multiple, on-farm reuse and recycling efforts helped garner the family the prestigious 2013 Leopold Conservation Award. Point Reyes now employs a staff of 70, produces one million pounds of cheese annually, and is an important part of protecting and growing a sustainable, local economy. Uplands Cheese Company Dodgeville, WI
Presenter: Andy Hatch
In 1994, after years of farming separately as neighbors, two families, the Gingriches and Patenaudes, bought a farm together in southwest Wisconsin in order to join their small herds and manage them in a seasonal, pasture-based system. The cows grazing this way were producing milk with exceptional flavors, and the farmers began looking for a way to take advantage of these flavors. They looked to other regions in the world where cheese is produced seasonally from grass-fed cows, and fell upon the cheeses made in the traditions of the Alpine regions of France and Switzerland. In 2000, they settled on a recipe and began making Pleasant Ridge Reserve. Seven years later, Andy Hatch came to work at Uplands. What began as a cheesemaking apprenticeship led to a role as manager and, finally, as a co-owner of the farm. Andy and his family joined another family in purchasing the farm from the Gingriches and Patenaudes in 2014. The dairy farm sits on Pleasant Ridge, in the Driftless region of Wisconsin. The farm spans 300 hilly acres, all of which are pasture, segregated into small paddocks. Each day the cows are moved to a different paddock, which ensures two things: first, that the cows are always eating fresh grass and will thus produce healthy, flavorful milk; and secondly, that the pasture isn't overgrazed and will re-grow in time for the next grazing. Uplands now produces two cheeses, Pleasant Ridge Reserve and Rush Creek Reserve, both seasonal cheeses that take full advantage of the unique qualities of the farm’s milk. Production volume ranges from 90,000 – 100,000 pounds annually, and varies based on the quality of the milk. Only milk that meets stringent flavor profiles is turned into cheese, with the rest sold as fluid milk.
Pholia Farm Creamery and Dairy Rogue River, OR
Presenter: Gianaclis Caldwell
Pholia Farm Creamery was established in 2006 on 23 acres of Gianaclis Caldwell’s family’s land, originally homesteaded in the 1940s. It is located in Oregon’s Rogue Valley which has become well known for its local artisan produce, cheese, specialty foods, wine, and beer. Gianaclis, along with her husband, Vern, and their children founded the dairy as a way to move back to the family land after Vern’s retirement from the United States Marine Corps in 2005. Pholia Farm quickly became well-known for its small batch, aged, raw milk farmstead goat cheeses. Their production volume is limited to about 1,000 to 1,500 pounds of cheese per year, and they now sell part of their milk to another local, pasteurized milk cheesemaker. The farm is run exclusively by the family. Gianaclis has written several books geared toward teaching proper practices for artisan and farmstead cheesemakers and dairy producers, and she teaches and consults in the United States and occasionally abroad. Sweet Grass Dairy Thomasville, GA
Presenter: Jeremy Little
Al and Desiree Wehner were conventional dairy farmers who, on a trip to New Zealand, were inspired to introduce a New Zealand-style rotational grazing system for their cows. Upon their return to Georgia, they began the process of converting their dairy farm from a highly mechanized operation with confined animals into a setup that has their herd out on grass 365 days a year. This approach maintains fresh grazing pastures and provides a healthy environment for the cows. The couple decided that artisan cheeses would be the best way to showcase their high quality, grass-based milk, so in 2002, with the help of their daughter, Jessica, and her husband, Jeremy Little, they launched Sweet Grass Dairy cheeses. In 2005, the Littles purchased the business from Jessica’s parents and expanded their range of cheeses as well as their distribution, now reaching over 38 states. The Littles continue to purchase cow milk from Jessica’s parents, who own Green Hill Dairy nearby. Sweet Grass now consists of a 140-acre farm and production facility, an online mail-order business, and a local cheese shop and wine bar featuring their raw and pasteurized milk cheeses. The dairy employs 15 people, and produces over 350,000 pounds of cheese annually. Sweet Grass defines who they are as follows: “We are a family, a team of community conscious, food loving, artisan cheese makers and sellers. We’re do-gooders who care about education and sustainable agriculture. We strive to be the kind of people that you want to hang out with on your front porch.”
Jasper Hill Farms and Cellars at Jasper Hill Greensboro, VT
Presenter: Mateo Kehler
With the desire to create a business that provides “meaningful work in a place that we love”, brothers Andy and Mateo Kehler founded Jasper Hill Farms in Vermont. Jasper Hill is a social enterprise focused on economic and agricultural development and the conservation of agricultural soils and the “working landscape” in Vermont through the production of high-value artisan cheese. The Cellars at Jasper Hill is a centralized facility that was created to lower the barriers to entry for artisan cheese producers by providing ripening, marketing and sales, and distribution and administrative services with the intent of allowing farmstead and artisan cheesemakers to take advantage of economies of scale. Jasper Hill’s future growth will be focused on a 10-mile radius of the Cellars, which is located in Greensboro, VT, a village of 670 inhabitants in Vermont’s economically depressed but picturesque Northeast Kingdom. Jasper Hill is building a network of farmstead cheesemakers with the intent of connecting 10 farms, collectively producing two million pounds of cheese, and generating over $20 million in sales, all while providing stewardship to guide over 5,000 acres of agricultural land into the fastest growing market in the dairy industry, Specialty Cheese. In 2015, Jasper Hill: Had 75 employees Generated $2.426 million payroll Injected $12.5 million into the local economy in 2015 Spent 90% of payables within 50 miles of Jasper Hill Estimated 10-year economic impact: $200 million Holland’s Family Cheese Thorp, WI
Presenter: Marieke Penterman
Rolf and Marieke Penterman are first-generation Wisconsin dairy farmers who moved from the Netherlands to Wisconsin in 2002. Having both grown up on typically small, 60-head dairy farms in the eastern part of Holland, Rolf and Marieke wanted to pursue their passion for dairy farming in an area that would afford them the capabilities of expansion. On their Wisconsin farm, they now have a 435 cow herd which consists of half Holsteins, one quarter Brown Swiss, and one quarter crossbred between the two breeds. After earning a Bachelor's Degree in Dairy Business, Marieke started a career as a farm inspector. In the meantime, her future husband, Rolf, emigrated to Thorp, WI and started a cow dairy farm in May 2002. Thorp, with a vast dairy base and farm-friendly people, was an ideal location. Marieke followed Rolf a year later. Once settled in the United States, Marieke missed the cheese from back home and began researching how to start her own cheesemaking business. In 2004, Marieke began working towards earning her Wisconsin cheesemaker's license and also traveled back to the Netherlands in order to learn the process of making "boerenkaas," the authentic farmstead Dutch Gouda cheese. In November 2013, the Pentermans opened a brand-new state-of-the-art facility which includes a store and viewing windows where visitors can see the farm and cheesemaking up close. This is where their ultimate dream came true: the opportunity to have a location where they can share their passion for modern family farming and handcrafting artisan cheeses in an open and educational environment. Holland’s Family Cheese now produces 245,000 pounds of Gouda annually and has brought about 30 jobs to the Thorp area. In 2015, Marieke became the first female recipient of the Wisconsin Outstanding Young Farmer Award.
Spring Brook Farm and Farms for City Kids Reading, VT
Presenter: Jeremy Stephenson
Spring Brook Farm is a traditional 1,000 acre dairy farm with over 100 registered Jersey cows, 42 of which are milked to produce over 600,000 pounds of milk per year. The milk from the cows is used to make five types of handcrafted cheese: Tarentaise, Tarentaise Reserve, Reading, Ashbrook, and Windsor County Tomme. Over the past eight years, the cheese program has grown to financially support all farm and cheese operations, creating nine full-time and four part-time positions, and allowing all donations to directly benefit the educational program. Currently, approximately 180,000 pounds of cheese are produced annually. In the process of expanding cheese production, Spring Brook Farm operations have expanded to fully support two nearby family-owned dairy farms. All of the milk produced by these farms is purchased based on an annual contract price. When combined with incentives for quality and cleanliness based on microbiological and component testing, this price is generally at least 50% higher than the commodity market in a given year. For the past 25 years, Spring Brook Farm has been home to Farms for City Kids Foundation, a unique educational program combining classroom studies with experiential learning on a working dairy farm. The educational program is designed to give students an understanding of how academic study can be applied to everyday life, while at the same time challenging them in a new and different setting. For example, students practice math skills by calculating cheese yield from milk and the income difference between selling fluid milk compared to a value-added product such as cheese. Teaching opportunities for the subjects of chemistry, microbiology, and hygiene are many in the context of a dairy farm and cheese plant. In addition to learning about caring for a dairy herd, they learn about economics and health and nutrition while helping to grow many kinds of fruits and vegetables. Teaching self-reliance and encouraging personal accomplishment in the context of teamwork are the essential goals of this program. To date, over 10,000 children have benefited from this educational opportunity since 1994.