We all know that Vermont Cheeses are the best, but it sure is exciting to see that the rest of the country agrees! At the prestigious American Cheese Society’s 36th Annual Awards competition (ACS) in Richmond, Virginia, Vermont producers, big and small, collectively took home 44 ribbons, marking Vermont’s best showing to date. Additionally, five Vermont cheeses were finalists for the Best of Show!
There were more 2000 entries at the 2019 ACS with 25 Vermont companies submitting cheeses to be judged. This annual competition is supported by the Vermont Cheese Council which provides technical assistance and marketing support for Vermont’s cheesemakers.
“These awards reinforce Vermont’s commitment to quality, which starts with the farmer, on the farm, and is carried right through until the cheese is served, “said Agriculture Secretary Anson Tebbetts. “Many thanks to the cheesemakers and the Vermont Cheese Council for their hard work helping Vermont’s economy grow by continuing to reinforce and grow the quality of Vermont products.”
Winning Cheeses from Vermont include:
Barn First Creamery, Westfield: Malloy, 1st Place
Boston Post Dairy, Enosburg Falls: Eleven Brothers, 2nd Place; Gisele, 3rd Place
Cabot Creamery Cooperative, Cabot: Cabot Founders Private Stock, 1st Place; Cabot Centennial, 1st Place; Cabot Garlic & Herb (New York) 1st Place; Old School Cheddar, 2nd Place; McCadam Brick Muenster (New York) 2nd Place; Cabot Salted Butter, (Massachusetts) 3rd Place
Cate Hill Orchard, Craftsbury Commons: Vermanchego, 2nd Place
Consider Bardwell Farm, West Pawlet: Rupert Reserve, 2nd Place; Goatlet, 1st Place with Crown Finish Caves
Fairy Tale Farm, Bridport: Nuberu, 2nd Place
Grafton Village Cheese Company, Grafton: Shepsog, 1st Place and Best of Show Finalist; Traditional Clothbound Cheddar, 2nd Place; Bear Hill, 3rd Place
Jasper Hill Farm, Greensboro: Cave Aged Cheddar, 1st Place in Category and Best of Show finalist in collaboration with Cabot Creamery Cooperative; Alpha Tolman, 1st Place, Cabot Clothbound, 3rd Place in collaboration with Cabot Creamery Cooperative, Bayley Hazen Blue, 3rd Place; Calderwood, 3rd Place, Hartwell, 3rd Place; Winnimere, 3rd Place; Little Hosmer, 3rd Place
Maplebrook Farm, Bennington: Whole Milk Block Feta, 1st Place
Mt. Mansfield Creamery, Morrisville: Starr, 1st Place collaboration with Sage Farm Goat Dairy, Stowe
Parish Hill Creamery, West Westminster: Reverie, 1st Place; Kashar, 1st Place; Suffolk Punch, 2nd Place
Sage Farm Goat Dairy, Stowe: Starr, 1st Place collaboration with Mt. Mansfield Creamery, Morrisville; Spruce, 1st Place, Smoked Chevre, 2nd Place; Morse Camembert, 2nd Place
Spring Brook Farm/Farms for City Kids Foundation, Reading: Tarentaise Reserve, 1st place and Best of Show Finalist; Reading Raclette, 3rd Place
Vermont Creamery, Websterville: Bijou, 1st Place and Best of Show Finalist; Classic Spreadable Goat Cheese, 1st Place; Cremont, 2nd Place; Quark, 2nd Place; Goat Feta, 3rd Place; Clover Blossom Honey Fresh Chevre, 3rd Place; We Be Chivin’ with Wegmans Market Affinage Program, 1st Place and Best of Show Finalist; Sweet 16 with Wegmans Market Affinage Program, 3rd Place
Vermont Farmstead Cheese Company, Woodstock: Clothbound Windsordale, 3rd Place
Vermont Shepherd, Putney: Well-Aged Invierno, 1st Place
von Trapp Farmstead, Waitsfiled: Mad River Blue, 1st Place
The ACS is the leading organization supporting the understanding, appreciation, and promotion of farmstead, artisan, and specialty cheeses in the Americas. ACS hosts North America’s foremost annual cheese-based educational conference, and world-renowned cheese judging and competition.
For a complete list of the 2019 American Cheese Society winners, click HERE
For more information on the Vermont Cheese Council visit www.vtcheese.com.
As part of our celebration of Dairy Month, we’re shining our Co-op Spotlight on a fantastic local, organic dairy farm hailing from Randolph Center, VT: Neighborly Farms! Member-owners can enjoy 20% off their award-winning organic cheeses from June 20th – 26th! Read on to learn more about this 210-acre organic dairy farm that calls VT home:
Established as an operating dairy farm in the 1920s, Rob and Linda Dimmick, along with their son Bobby and his wife, Brooke, are continuing the tradition of family farming. Nestled in the rolling hills of Randolph Center, Vermont, Neighborly Farms decorates the countryside with its red barn and white post and beam farmhouse built in the 1800s. They operate on 210 acres with cropland and grazing fields to support the dairy and a sugarhouse for producing pure Vermont maple syrup. The lush green fields are home to 70 Holsteins in the warmer months and provide hay for the cows during the cold Vermont winters.
The Dimmick’s are continuing the family farming tradition because they have a deeply-rooted passion for the land and animals. They are a totally organic farm. This means the farm is run in complete harmony with the land and the animals; no antibiotics, no hormones, and no commercial fertilizers. Just pure and natural techniques that keep the cows healthy, happy, and the dairy products wholesome and chemical-free. It means that the high-quality cheeses produced at Neighborly Farms are 100% organic and reflect the terroir of their surroundings.
Neighborly Farms of Vermont is not just another dairy farm. Their commitment to organic practices and their solar energy system illustrate their love for the land and animals and deep respect for the environment. They’ve made an active choice to integrate sustainable practices that best care for the earth, their cows, and their neighbors in both this generation and for generations to become. They make cheese the old-fashioned way and believe that caring for the land and surroundings helps them produce the finest cheeses possible.
At the Co-op, you’ll find a rotating variety of their small-batch cheeses including Jalapeno Jack, Monterey Jack, Colby, Feta, Green Onion Cheddar, and their staple Raw Milk Cheddar, many of which have been honored with awards from the prestigious American Cheese Society. They hope you enjoy them and they thank you for supporting your local, organic dairy farms!
Since 1937, Americans have been celebrating June as National Dairy Month. As we take this time to heartily celebrate our dairy farmers this month, it’s hard to avoid mention of the many challenges that dairy farmers in Vermont and across the country continue to face as they endure the fifth consecutive year of low farm-gate milk prices. This means that the price farmers are paid for the milk they produce is well below the cost of production. As a recent press release from Rural Vermont states, “our agricultural heartbeat is in threat, as is our farmland. With an average farmer age of 58 and consistently inadequate milk prices, the future for our dairy community, and its accompanying 80% of Vermont’s agricultural land is in jeopardy as it goes through a formative transition.”
The Local Scene
Our local dairy farmers need our support now more than ever, though some recent developments give us reason to feel optimistic. In April of 2019 over 50 Vermont dairy farmers and eaters gathered for a meeting geared toward developing strategies for viability. The overwhelming sentiment shared throughout the meeting was one of hope and gratitude for the local support they’re receiving. The six dairy farmers on the panel that day, along with many other conventional and organic dairy farmers in attendance, underscored the value of having strong local support. They recognized the need to provide ongoing education for the community about the impact of supporting local dairy. As George van Vlaanderen of Does’ Leap Farm in East Fairfield stated, “It’s contingent on us to educate friends and neighbors about where our food comes from and the impact of voting with your dollars. We can support a prosperous agricultural future by supporting our farmer neighbors today.” Amber Machia of Red Barn in HIghgate echoed his sentiments, reminding those in attendance that impact of spending food dollars locally extends well beyond the farms, affecting the multitude of other local businesses connected to local dairy farms, including feed supply stores, trucking companies, label and package makers, and distribution hubs.
Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, the most senior member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, played a key role in forging the 2018 Farm Bill’s dairy priorities and, as a result of his efforts, the Farm Bill dramatically expanded support for dairy producers, providing flexible, affordable coverage options through the new Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) program. The goal of the Farm Bill is to benefit producers of all sizes, but offers up to five times more support for the smallest farms, as those farms tend to be hardest hit during times of crisis. This is particularly good news for Vermont dairy farmers, as most manage herds of less than 200 cattle, qualifying them as small dairies by national standards. Leahy, along with Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Senator Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), and others, penned a bipartisan letter in April asking Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to prioritize the implementation of the dairy provisions in the 2018 Farm Bill to help provide some much-needed relief to dairy farmers without delay. Leahy followed that up with an additional bipartisan letter on May 17th urging Perdue to increase trade war relief payments to a level that more accurately reflects the damages dairy farmers have faced, as the current trade mitigation program has failed to fairly compensate dairy farmers slammed by retaliatory tariffs. It sure is nice to have a local Senator fighting so hard for our farmers.
Milk with Dignity
A bright spot in local dairy news this year was the adoption of the Milk with Dignity program by local dairy giant Ben & Jerry’s. In a recent article in VT Digger, Marita Canedo, Migrant Justice staff member and event panelist representing the Milk with Dignity Program, reflected on Ben & Jerry’s adoption of the program as a human rights victory. “It took more than two years in a public campaign and 4 years in conversation. We had to have translators and it took a long time, but we finally had everyone at the same table. There are human rights in that ice cream.” The Milk with Dignity Program brings together farmers, farmworker, buyers, and consumers to ensure dignified working conditions in the dairy supply chain, asking the corporations making the most in the dairy industry to pay for a higher standard of human rights for workers.
This came as part of a larger Values-Led Dairy Vision adopted by Ben & Jerry’s, which specifies that all dairy used by Ben & Jerry’s in the manufacture of its products will be sourced from dairy farms which have:
Thriving and dignified livelihoods for farmers and farm workers
Exceptional animal welfare standards for cows
A flourishing ecosystem in which feed is grown ecologically, without the use of harmful chemicals or GMOs, and in a way that protects water resources and promotes biological diversity
Farm operations acting as a net carbon sink through minimizing greenhouse gas emissions and sequestering carbon in the soil.
Ben & Jerry’s sources most of the milk and cream from members of the St. Albans Cooperative.
Grass-fed Organic Dairy Offers Solutions
The US milk glut and the accompanying drop in dairy prices over the past few years have wielded a tough blow for conventional and organic dairy farmers alike, though organic and grass-fed dairy farms are still faring better than their conventional counterparts. Consumers are beginning to recognize the importance of supporting organic dairy production that utilizes traditional pasture-based systems of rotational grazing. Not only does this system of natural grazing aid the environment in terms of soil restoration, increased biodiversity, improved water quality, and flood mitigation – but it also it guarantees healthy lives for the animals, and they, in turn, produce meat and milk that is healthier for us than the grain-fed alternatives. Soil scientists have determined that grazing animals are critical to the process of building soil organic matter. According to Jean Paul Courtens of Roxbury Farm, who presented at the recent Real Organic Project Symposium at Dartmouth, a mere one-percent increase in the soil organic matter on the four billion acres that are used for agricultural production on our planet would allow for the sequestration of 102 billion tons of carbon dioxide. When raising livestock using managed rotational grazing, it is possible to sink more carbon than one is producing, making organic agricultural production an active part of the solution to the ongoing threat of climate change.
We’re casting our Co-op Spotlight on Cabot Creamery this week to shed a little light on this 100-year-old cooperative creamery, established at a time when cows outnumbered people in Vermont. Cabot’s full line of dairy products are 20% for member-owners this week! Read on to learn all about their humble beginnings, the local farmers that are part of this cooperative, and how the Cabot name became synonymous with dairy in Vermont:
The Cabot Creamery, headquartered in Waitsfield, VT, is a cooperative made up of more than 800 dairy farm families located throughout New York and New England. They also manage four plants in three states, employing over 1,000 people, who make “The World’s Best” cheese and dairy products.
The Cabot story reaches back to the beginning of the 20th century. In those days, the cost of farming was low and most farmers produced way more milk than they could market. So, in 1919, farmers from the Cabot area figured that if they joined forces, they could turn their excess milk into butter and market it throughout New England. Ninety-four farmers jumped on board, purchased the village creamery (built in 1983), and began producing butter.
Over the next two decades, as the nation’s population flocked to urban areas, Cabot’s farmer-owners thrived by shipping their milk and butter south. While the national economy shifted away from agriculture, the Vermont economy was still largely based on dairy farming. In fact, in 1930, cows outnumbered people! It was at this time that the company hired its first cheesemaker and cheddar cheese entered the product line for the first time. By 1960, Cabot’s membership reached 600 farm families at a time when the total number of operating farms around the nation was in sharp decline.
Steady growth continued and 1992 was a pivotal year in Cabot’s history as their farmer-owners merged with the 1,800 farm families of Agri-mark, a southern New England co-op dating back to 1918.
Today, Cabot’s future looks bright. Our company blends state-of-the-art facilities and a savvy entrepreneurial spirit with the timeless values and personal commitment to quality that comes from being 100% owned by our farm families. In our Middlebury facility, we recently installed a huge new piece of machinery that will allow us to process 4,000 more pounds of cheese curd per hour than the 8,000 pounds the current machine handles. This 22-ton piece of equipment known as the CheeseMaster will increase production of the 26 truck-sized vats — each holding enough milk to make 6,000 pounds of cheese — that get filled daily.
The Middlebury facility runs 24 hours a day/seven days a week and serves to make and age Cabot’s famous Vermont Cheddar. The plant also processes whey liquids, which are left over from the cheesemaking process, to produce whey proteins and permeate, which is sold around the world. Additionally, the facility serves as a warehouse for cheese and whey products, with the capacity to store up to 2 million pounds of cheese. On a daily basis, 114 Vermont and New York dairy farmers supply the milk for the Middlebury plant, although that number increases on weekends and holidays when other plants are closed. Addison County is one of the largest membership areas in the farmers’ coop, helping to supply the milk that comes to the plant every day.
To learn more about the eight farms in Addison County that are part of the Cabot Cooperative, click on the links below:
Planning a holiday party? Then you’ll be excited to hear that we’re featuring Vermont Creamery in our Member Deals Spotlight this week! Member-owners can enjoy 20% off their decadent array of award-winning products from November 28th – December 5th. We’re incredibly lucky to live in a state with the highest number of artisanal cheesemakers per capita, and Vermont Creamery ranks high among them. Their cheeses, creme fraiche, mascarpone, and cultured butter have garnered awards locally, nationally, and globally, creating quite a reputation for this local creamery with such humble roots. Read on to learn more about how the creamery began, their model for being a sustainable mission-driven business, and what keeps them inspired to produce their world-renowned products:
Allison learned how to make cheese during an internship on a farm in Brittany, France. Bob was working for the Vermont Department of Agriculture and charged with organizing a dinner featuring all Vermont-made products. When a French chef requested fresh goat cheese, Bob scrambled to find a local producer. He asked Allison, who was working in a dairy lab and milking goats in Brookfield, to make the cheese. The dinner was a success and the cheese was a hit; Vermont Creamery was born that night.
In the 34 years since the improbable business partners made their first goat cheese, a lot has changed. But the more things change at Vermont Creamery, the more they stay the same.
They’re still here in Vermont, making consciously-crafted, delicious dairy that reflects who they are and what they care about; they’ve taken the time to perfect every detail of what they make. Their cheeses and butter have won hundreds of national and international awards, their team remains their most valuable resource, and they still put taste above all. You’ll never eat anything they don’t believe in.
At Vermont Creamery, they strive to produce the highest quality cheeses and dairy products using local ingredients while supporting and developing family farms. They aim to exemplify sustainability by being profitable, engaging their staff in the business, and living their mission every day in the creamery.
Vermont Creamery became a certified B Corp in 2014. B Corps are a new type of company that use the power of business to solve social and environmental problems. This designation reflects the values upon which the company was founded and their operating philosophies today. The B Corp Impact Assessment provides a roadmap to continually improve their business practices while also applying rigor to and accountability for their mission. Check out their B Impact Score here.
It’s back to school time! If your plan is to pack the lunchbox with healthy foods that your kid will actually enjoy eating, we think you’re going to like this recipe. It packs a healthy protein punch and the addition of some salsa and some avocado slices will up the veggie ante. Just remember to toss your avocado slices in a bit of salt and lemon juice to keep them from browning. The quesadillas do require some light prep work, but they keep well in the fridge for up to three days and in the freezer for up to three months, so you can make a batch on a weekend day when you have a few minutes to spare.
As part of our celebration of Dairy Month, we’re shining our Co-op Spotlight on a fantastic local, organic dairy farm hailing from Randolph Center, VT: Neighborly Farms! Member-owners can enjoy 20% off their award-winning organic cheeses from June 21st – 27th! Read on to learn more about this 168-acre organic dairy farm that calls VT home:
Established as an operating dairy farm in the 1920’s, Rob and Linda Dimmick are continuing the tradition of family farming. Nestled in the rolling hills of Randolph Center, Vermont, Neighborly Farms decorates the countryside with its red barn and white post and beam farmhouse built in the 1800s. They operate on 168 acres with cropland and grazing fields to support the dairy and a sugarhouse for producing pure Vermont maple syrup. The clean and tidy barn is home to 70 Holsteins—the black and white cows that symbolize rural living at its very best.
Rob and Linda are continuing the family farming tradition because they have a passion for the land and animals. They are a totally organic farm. This means the farm is run in complete harmony with the land and the animals; no antibiotics, no hormones, and no commercial fertilizers. Just pure and natural techniques that keep the cows healthy, happy, and the dairy products wholesome and chemical-free. It means that the cheese produced at Neighborly Farms are pure and natural. And the best part? The organic cheeses taste great too.
Neighborly Farms of Vermont is not just another dairy farm. At their family farm, there is a deep love for the land and animals. That’s why they choose to be an organic farm. It’s a way of showing that they care about their surroundings and neighbors. Neighborly Farms produces eleven kinds of delicious organic cheeses; all made with wholesome milk from their well-cared-for Holstein cows. They make cheese the old-fashioned way and believe that caring for the land and surroundings helps them produce the finest cheeses possible.
At the Co-op, you’ll find a rotating variety of their cheeses including Jalapeno Jack, Monterey Jack, Colby, Feta, Green Onion Cheddar, and their staple Raw Milk Cheddar, many of which have been honored with awards from the prestigious American Cheese Society. They hope you enjoy them and they thank you for supporting your local, organic dairy farms!
With National Dairy Month in mind, we’re casting our Co-op Spotlight on Vermont Creameryand reminding member-owners that they can enjoy 20% off their decadent dairy products From June 7th – 13th. We’re incredibly lucky to live in a state with the highest number of artisanal cheesemakers per capita, and Vermont Creamery ranks high among them. Their cheeses, creme fraiche, mascarpone, and cultured butter have garnered awards locally, nationally, and globally, creating quite a reputation for this incredible creamery with such humble roots. Read on to learn more about how the creamery began, their model for being a sustainable mission-driven business, and what keeps them inspired to produce their world-renowned products:
Vermont Creamery was started by two young visionaries devoted to new and non-traditional agriculture, Allison Hooper and Bob Reese. As a college student, Allison spent a summer traveling in France. She worked on a small family farm in Brittany, earning room and board while learning how to make all of the essentials of what was to become her life passion: cheesemaking. Bob always thought he would one day take over his grandparents’ dairy farm. Unfortunately, by the time he finished his degree in Agriculture, they’d sold the farm. Appropriately enough, the improbable run as long-term business partners began in 1984 during a dinner celebrating Vermont agricultural products. Bob was in charge of the dinner and desperately needed a locally made goat cheese for the French chef’s signature lamb dish. He reached out to Allison, who was then working at a dairy lab and milking goats in Brookfield. Allison made the chèvre on the farm, Bob delivered it to the chef– the dinner was a success and Vermont Creamery was born.
As they say, “time flies when you’re having fun”. And what a fun wild ride we’ve had. A quarter-century ago, $2,000 of savings and a $4,000 loan from an ag-minded Vermont church made possible our first nervous debut of fresh chèvre in the milk house on the farm in Brookfield. We sold first at farmers’ markets, then to food co-ops and French chefs. Back then, fresh chèvre, so popular today, was a dazzling exotic foreign delicacy for American palates. Today, almost 30 years later, 20 Vermont goat farms ship their milk to Vermont Creamery. We are humbled and proud to have won more than 100 national and international awards. Our butter and cheeses populate some of the most prestigious cheese boards in America. But what makes us proudest perhaps is that we have sustained a team of family farms and creamery artisans. Together we thrive making simply great cheese for discerning, appreciative eaters, home cooks and discriminating chefs alike.
At Vermont Creamery, we strive to produce the highest quality cheeses and dairy products using local ingredients while supporting and developing family farms. We aim to exemplify sustainability by being profitable, engaging our staff in the business, and living our mission every day in the creamery.
Our mission is founded on five principles:
The farms: Improve our rural communities by supporting family farms which have best management practices that are sustainable and environmentally sound.
A culture of continuous improvement: Invigorate and challenge our creamery community to maintain the highest product quality, excel at customer service and care for our consumers by inviting them to be part of our family.
The value of cheese: Promotes a life of good health and meaningful connection through the preparation and sharing of good food with others.
A responsible manufacturer: Add value to milk while minimizing our impact on clean and plentiful water, clean air, and land.
The Team: Accountability and responsibility allows every team member to create a profitable, meaningful and fun workplace where he/she is challenged empowered and motivated by his/her contribution.
A workplace that thinks globally and acts locally: Fostering mutual respect and tolerance in pursuit of a better life for everyone resonates within the creamery, into the community, and beyond
Click HERE to read Vermont Creamery’s 2017 Mission Report
In 2014, Vermont Creamery became B Corp certified. B Corps are a new type of company that use the power of business to solve social and environmental problems. B Corp certification is to sustainable business what Fair Trade certification is to coffee or USDA Organic certification is to milk. This designation reflects the values upon which our company was founded and our operating philosophies today. We became B Corp because capitalism affects change when it is mindful of doing what is right at the expense of profits. The B Corp Impact Assessment reflects not only what we currently do, but applies rigor to and accountability for our mission.
Our Recipe for Making a Difference-
100% of our company utilizes open book management
100% of Creamery employees participate in profit sharing
100% of our milk comes from small-scale suppliers/farms
Since June of 1937, Americans have been celebrating National Dairy Month. As we celebrate, it’s important to note that the Dairy Industry is making headlines lately due to sustained low milk prices which continue to deliver a tough blow to dairy farmers – particularly small dairy farmers managing fewer than 200 cattle. In Vermont, small dairy farms are the majority, so this downturn in the dairy market is hitting Vermont communities particularly hard. While times are tough for our local dairy farmers, it’s important to remember just how critical these farmers are to our local economy.
Vermont Organic Farmers (VOF), the organic certification program of NOFA-VT, has just over 200 dairies certified in Vermont; up from just 33 in 1998. This increase in organic dairy production in Vermont is something to celebrate for a number of reasons. On an organic dairy farm, cows graze on pasture during the growing season, eat organically grown feed, and are not treated with hormones or antibiotics. Well-managed organic dairy farms are less harmful to the environment than conventional dairies (think: a cleaner Lake Champlain!), and there is evidence that the milk they produce may be better for our health, thanks to higher amounts of CLA (an antioxidant) and ALA (an Omega 3 fatty acid).
While this increase in organic production is exciting, it’s also true that organic dairy farmers are not immune to the tough times in the dairy industry. According to NOFA-VT, “Organic dairy farms in Vermont, and nationwide, are seeing historic lows in their pay price, with some farmers receiving an almost $10/cwt (hundredweight, or hundred pounds of milk) drop over the past year. Some milk buyers have also implemented a quota, limiting the amount of milk a farm is able to produce. The pay price and situation differ among milk buyers, as they have all been affected by, and handled, the oversupply differently. These sudden, and for some, drastic changes in pay price means that some farmers are being paid close to, at or even below their cost of production, and can not make ends meet. Due to this, we’ve seen an increase in disaster requests for our Farmer Emergency Fund from organic dairy farmers for assistance in meeting their feed costs and covering basic needs.” If you’re interested in contributing to this fund and helping provide a much-needed lifeline to these farmers that mean so much to our local economy, click here.
We’re shining our Member Deals Spotlight on Vermont Creamery this week and offering member-owners a 20% discount on their full line of delicious dairy products from December 14th – 20th. They recently shared some big news with the community, and perhaps you’ve already heard about it, but we wanted to share the full scoop from one of their founders, Allison Hooper. Below you will find Allison’s post from their creamery blog:
With Gratitude for a Bright Future
On March 19th, Bob and I announced to our employees that we are selling our company to Land O’Lakes, the successful farmer-owned cooperative headquartered in Arden Hills, MN. After several years of searching for the right partner, we are thrilled to share this news. We are filled with a myriad of emotions: Delight that we have found a great partner. Elation that our baby Vermont Creamery is a great catch and a good fit for America’s iconic butter-maker. Nostalgia for those naïve twenty-something-year-olds starting an improbable enterprise. Energized to slow down and be present for our families. Relief that we’re leaving behind the stress of owning a business that isn’t so little anymore. Excitement that the future for Vermont Creamery and our team is bright and filled with opportunity.
Why sell now?
Bob and I are entrepreneurs. 34 years ago, back in 1984, we saw something in the future that others didn’t see. We asked: ”Why not make and sell hand-made cheeses from cows and goats milk?” We were undaunted and refreshingly optimistic. In our twenties, the risk seemed minimal as we cobbled together our $2,400 investment to make cheese in an outbuilding on a goat farm. Bob’s penchant for numbers and my intuition that Americans might eat goat cheese and crème fraiche (if they were really hungry!) fueled our passion and drive to succeed. Over the course of 34 years, we developed some scrumptious cheeses and enough customers to flourish as a business. We had just enough grit to clear the big hurdles of making a tasty cheese, keeping cash in the bank and earning a commendable trusting reputation with our customers. Who knew that this little company and America’s appetite for artisanal cheese would blossom as it has?
Today, we have a thriving and promising enterprise. Vermont Creamery cheeses and butters are sold in every state. Daily, we manage ten distinct cheesemaking technologies. Between the creamery and the farm, we employ over 105 people. We buy milk from 14 Vermont producers, 4 in Quebec and 12 in Ontario. We have accomplished a whole lot more than what we set out to do. Here is what makes Bob and I really proud:
We make amazing chèvres, crème fraîche, mascarpone, cultured butters, and geotricum rinded goats’ and cows’ milk cheeses;
We’ve stimulated a company culture that embraces transparent open-book management and rewards innovation;
Through solar energy investments on our dairy barn and improvements at the Creamery, we are hacking away at our carbon footprint;
Our B Corp certification requires commitment to higher environmental goals, less waste, and more sharing of our surpluses;
Through initiatives like the Vermont Cheese Festival and Cheese Council, we collaboratively lift all boats;
By building what we hope will become a model, transparent, environmentally conscious and sustainable goat dairy, we connect our working landscape to the good food we serve up;
Bob and I built a business partnership that has endured three decades of mistakes, triumphs, raising thoughtful children, and creating solid financial results;
We’ve personally mentored the next generation of Vermont Creamery; boy is their future bright!
Bob and I have had a good run and we know it is time for us to turn over the reigns to a team of terrific managers who have the skills to build upon what we have created. We have been intentional in hiring and developing talent at Vermont Creamery. We have already transitioned our day-to-day management to Adeline Druart, our 14- year French “intern” who came to America to learn to speak English. We promoted her to President nearly 2 years ago. Our leadership team is ready and eager for the opportunities of transition. They have a plan and a clear vision on where they will take Vermont Creamery. Equipped with the resources and expertise of Land O’Lakes, there is nothing they cannot achieve.
Bob and I do not plan to leave Vermont Creamery just yet. We will continue to attend industry events and speak on behalf of the Creamery. We have an inspiring story and love telling it. We will advise the management team through the transition. Most importantly, we will carve out the time to be students of life beyond cheese. There is a lot we’ve yet to explore and our spouses couldn’t be more excited for us to re-join them in the civilian world. Bob and I are both grandparents now, we are eager to spend more of our days at home in Vermont and less of them in distant airports promoting the cheese business.
Our work with cheese is not done. The Hooper Family will retain Ayers Brook Goat Dairy as it shoulders its way to sustainability. Our family is eager to help Miles and Daryll (Allison’s son and daughter-in-law) succeed on the farm. The Hoopers will call on Bob often for his financial counsel. We know that Vermont Creamery customers will still delight in visiting the farm. We look forward to seeing you there. Rolling up our sleeves to connect farmers with land and goats to milk is unfinished Vermont business that needs our attention.
Why Land O’Lakes?
We examined many options for fit and funding the future of Vermont Creamery. Land O’Lakes came with unprecedented enthusiasm. As the iconic company that made the butter which was in my family fridge growing up, Land O’Lakes has the know-how and resources to help Vermont Creamery realize our vision. For Land O’Lakes, they simply love what we do, our products, our leadership team, and our brand promise. And we are thrilled by Land O’Lakes’ desire to take our improbably successful family business to the next level.
Vermonters and our customers all around may feel a sense of uneasiness when a local brand sells to a larger company. We appreciate that sentiment and how this exceptional Vermont community has cheered for and supported us. We trade on the beauty of our landscape, the thoughtfulness of our Vermont practicality, our varied agriculture, and championing of humane causes. Land O’Lakes recognizes these values, shares them deeply and plans to invest significantly in the Creamery in Websterville, Vermont. The management team and all employees have been asked to stay on. Increased wages and improved benefits are scheduled and we intend to hire more production workers.
Land O’Lakes is dedicated to developing a local supply of goats’ milk. About 20 years ago, Bob and I each took short consulting stints to work for Land O’Lakes’ International Division. Our contracts brought cheesemaking, marketing, and business expertise to Macedonia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, the West Bank and Bulgaria. We are familiar with Land O’Lakes’ values and effectiveness; they understand the sensitivity required in meeting a community where it is and finding synergy to realize a common vision. Bob and I were pleased to be sought out by the Land O’Lakes International Division then and look forward to similar opportunities for Vermont Creamery staff seeking this kind of growth experience.
Of all the emotions we’re feeling, gratitude is tops. We are grateful for the friends, fulfillment, and independence that our careers in cheese and farming have bestowed. We are grateful for the customers, new and old, who invigorated our drive to be the best. We are grateful for our conscientious employees who have made this business feel like family. We are grateful for raising six children (three sons each) in a family business that started from scratch. They know about hard work, their privilege, and responsibility to make the world better. We are grateful for our loving spouses, Don and Sandy, who have coached and supported us through this transition. We are grateful, that the future for the business and community we have built has never looked brighter.