Grass-fed Dairy

Spotlight on Champlain Valley Creamery

We’re casting our Member Deals Spotlight on a local organic creamery that produces delicious award-winning cheeses just a few short miles from the Co-op. Champlain Valley Creamery uses traditional techniques and small-batch pasteurization to produce their cheese entirely by hand in a net-zero solar-powered facility in Middlebury. Their fantastic lineup of cheeses are all 20% off for Member-owners from December 3rd – 9th! Read on to learn more about this fabulous local creamery and the people who make it shine:

 

 

Champlain Valley Creamery was first established in 2003 by founder and owner Carleton Yoder. With a graduate degree in food science and a background in wine and hard cider making, Yoder was eager to run his own food business. With Vermont’s abundance of amazing local milk, small-scale cheesemaking just made sense. Yoder began his adventures in cheesemaking in a facility in Vergennes where he focused on two products: Organic Champlain Triple and Old Fashioned Organic Cream Cheese. Both have been awarded well-deserved honors from the prestigious American Cheese Society.

Carleton Yoder

Over the years, the creamery has continued to grow and expand its offerings, eventually moving into a net-zero solar-powered facility on Middlebury’s Exchange Street in 2012. Yoder and his small crew now produce an expanded lineup of cheeses including Queso Fresco (available in original, house-smoked, and pepper varieties),  Maple Cream Cheese, a pyramid-shaped triple cream with a layer of ash known as Pyramid Scheme, and, most recently, they began importing Italian truffles to produce the Champlain Truffle Triple.

 

The Creamery also made a switch last year to using 100% grass-fed organic milk from the Severy Farm in Cornwall. The milk only travels a few short miles from the farm to the creamery, where the cheesemaking begins within hours of arrival. The use of grass-fed milk results in a richer, creamier cheese that displays subtle seasonal changes reflective of the changing diet of the cows as the seasons progress. It’s truly the terroir of Addison County in each decadent bite of cheese.

salting a fresh batch of Queso Fresco

Yoder is supported by a small crew that is just as dedicated to the craft as he is. They use traditional techniques and small-batch pasteurization to produce their cheeses entirely by hand.  A recent visit to their facility found the crew in constant motion, measuring, stirring, monitoring temperatures, and generally putting every bit of the day’s fresh batch of milk to good use. The bulk of the cream and whole milk is used to produce the Organic Champlain Triple, Champlain Truffle Triple, and the two varieties of cream cheese. The part-skim milk is then transformed into each of the three varieties of Queso Fresco, and the whey is drained off to create hand-dipped, basket-strained ricotta that is only available to a few select restaurants in the area. The only remaining by-product is a small amount of whey, which is sent to feed the happy pigs at Hinesburg’s Full Moon Farm, resulting in an operation that is hyper-local with very minimal waste. 

Amanda Warner & Carleton Yoder, with Carleton’s daughter,  Lila Cook Yoder, who was helping out on a snow day

According to Yoder, “cheesemaking is hard work but we strive to let the milk, cream, culture, salt, and mold shine through with their amazing flavors.” It’s this minimalist approach and the desire to honor the high-quality local ingredients that make Champlain Valley Creamery’s cheeses shine.

Picture hanging above Yoder’s desk made by his son, Nate

 

Spotlight on Champlain Valley Creamery

We’re casting our Member Deals Spotlight on a local organic creamery that produces delicious award-winning cheeses just a few short miles from the Co-op. Champlain Valley Creamery uses traditional techniques and small-batch pasteurization to produce their cheese entirely by hand in a net-zero solar-powered facility in Middlebury. Their fantastic lineup of cheeses are all 20% off for Member-owners from December 3rd – 9th! Read on to learn more about this fabulous local creamery and the people who make it shine:

 

 

Champlain Valley Creamery was first established in 2003 by founder and owner Carleton Yoder. With a graduate degree in food science and a background in wine and hard cider making, Yoder was eager to run his own food business. With Vermont’s abundance of amazing local milk, small-scale cheesemaking just made sense. Yoder began his adventures in cheesemaking in a facility in Vergennes where he focused on two products: Organic Champlain Triple and Old Fashioned Organic Cream Cheese. Both have been awarded well-deserved honors from the prestigious American Cheese Society.

Carleton Yoder

Over the years, the creamery has continued to grow and expand its offerings, eventually moving into a net-zero solar-powered facility on Middlebury’s Exchange Street in 2012. Yoder and his small crew now produce an expanded lineup of cheeses including Queso Fresco (available in original, house-smoked, and pepper varieties),  Maple Cream Cheese, a pyramid-shaped triple cream with a layer of ash known as Pyramid Scheme, and, most recently, they began importing Italian truffles to produce the Champlain Truffle Triple.

 

The Creamery also made a switch last year to using 100% grass-fed organic milk from the Severy Farm in Cornwall. The milk only travels a few short miles from the farm to the creamery, where the cheesemaking begins within hours of arrival. The use of grass-fed milk results in a richer, creamier cheese that displays subtle seasonal changes reflective of the changing diet of the cows as the seasons progress. It’s truly the terroir of Addison County in each decadent bite of cheese.

salting a fresh batch of Queso Fresco

Yoder is supported by a small crew that is just as dedicated to the craft as he is. They use traditional techniques and small-batch pasteurization to produce their cheeses entirely by hand.  A recent visit to their facility found the crew in constant motion, measuring, stirring, monitoring temperatures, and generally putting every bit of the day’s fresh batch of milk to good use. The bulk of the cream and whole milk is used to produce the Organic Champlain Triple, Champlain Truffle Triple, and the two varieties of cream cheese. The part-skim milk is then transformed into each of the three varieties of Queso Fresco, and the whey is drained off to create hand-dipped, basket-strained ricotta that is only available to a few select restaurants in the area. The only remaining by-product is a small amount of whey, which is sent to feed the happy pigs at Hinesburg’s Full Moon Farm, resulting in an operation that is hyper-local with very minimal waste. 

Amanda Warner & Carleton Yoder, with Carleton’s daughter,  Lila Cook Yoder, who was helping out on a snow day

According to Yoder, “cheesemaking is hard work but we strive to let the milk, cream, culture, salt, and mold shine through with their amazing flavors.” It’s this minimalist approach and the desire to honor the high-quality local ingredients that make Champlain Valley Creamery’s cheeses shine.

Picture hanging above Yoder’s desk made by his son, Nate

 

Spotlight on Strafford Organic Creamery

As part of our celebration of Dairy Month, we’d like to take a moment to shine our Co-op Spotlight on a Vermont dairy that keeps us stocked in local, organic milk and some of the best ice cream we’ve ever tasted. Strafford Organic Creamery is nestled in the hills of Strafford, Vermont on the 600-acre Rockbottom Farm, which has been in the family for two generations. Farmer Earl Ransom and his wife, Amy Huyffer, milk 65 grass-fed Guernsey cows and carry on the tradition of tending the land organically without the use of pesticides, herbicides, or chemical fertilizers, just as Earl’s father did when he first founded the farm in the 1960s. Amy generally focuses on running the creamery while Earl handles the farming aspects of the operation. Their four young boys also help out on the farm, making it a true family affair. 

Photo by Amy Donohue Photography

Their herd is made up of Guernsey cows, famous for their rich, yellow cream, perfect for making premium milk and ice cream. The cows spend the entire growing season rotating on fresh pasture, grazing high-quality forage including grass, alfalfa, legumes, and clover. They rotationally graze across 56 paddocks, moving onto fresh pasture every 12 hours, turning sunshine into food, and sequestering carbon along the way. This same forage is harvested and stored for feeding the cows through the colder months.  According to Amy and Earl, “everything we do, from the crops we grow for them to the gentle routines of milking, is focused on their comfort and well-being, and helping them create super-tasty milk and cream.”

 

Photo by Amy Donohue Photography

 

Their commitment to the environment is not only evident in the way they chose to farm, but also in the reusable glass packaging they choose for their milk. In December of 2019, when Kimball Brook Farm announced they would be ceasing production of their organic dairy products, Amy and Earl received many requests from retailers asking Strafford Organic Creamery to consider switching to plastic jugs to fill the void left on the retail shelves in the wake of Kimball Brook’s closure. After reaching out to gather community input and giving consideration to the vast quantity of virgin plastic that transition would add to the waste stream, they held strong on their commitment to packaging their milk in reusable glass. According to Amy, “we don’t get all our first choices on everything we do, but we do get to choose how we care for this beautiful piece of land, which cows to milk and how to feed and house them, what ingredients to add (or not add) to our products, and what kind of bottle to put it in. It feels really good, after going to all the trouble to make milk like this, to put it in a bottle that will keep the milk cold on the counter, seal in the flavor, and that we’ll see circle around again next month.”

Earl is one of only three Black dairy farmers in the state of Vermont, according to the 2017 USDA Census data. This past February, VPR interviewed Earl about his experiences as a Black farmer in a state and occupation that is predominantly white. Despite the fact that Earl was born and raised on his Vermont farm and is carrying on a rich farming heritage started by his father, he still reports feeling like an outsider. “Nobody expects to see a Black guy milking cows or driving a tractor,” he says. He reports routinely receiving visits from seed salesmen or other drop-ins who ask to speak to his boss. Unfortunately, he bears the burden of helping these visitors see the error in their ways and check their preconceived notions about what a farm owner looks like. These kinds of microaggressions occur so regularly that Earl has become used to them, though, of course, it’s not Earl’s job to educate others about racism or the challenges of being a Black farmer in Vermont. 

Despite the ailing state of the dairy industry in Vermont, Strafford Organic Creamery remains financially sound. Earl credits their ongoing success to their loyal local fanbase and the fact that their farm controls their own production, bottling their own milk since 2001 and making weekly batches of their ice cream by hand. He believes that there is a place for Vermont dairy in the broader agricultural landscape, despite the challenges the industry faces and he’s optimistic that his sons will want to carry the torch into the next generation at Rockbottom Farm. 

 

Strafford Organic Creamery from Farmers To You on Vimeo.

Spotlight on Champlain Valley Creamery

We’re casting our Member Deals Spotlight on a local organic creamery that produces delicious award-winning cheeses just a few short miles from the Co-op. Champlain Valley Creamery uses traditional techniques and small-batch pasteurization to produce their cheese entirely by hand in a net-zero solar-powered facility in Middlebury. Their fantastic lineup of cheeses are all 20% off for Member-owners from December 12th – 18th — just in time for your holiday parties! Read on to learn more about this fabulous local creamery and the people who make it shine:

 

 

Champlain Valley Creamery was first established in 2003 by founder and owner Carleton Yoder. With a graduate degree in food science and a background in wine and hard cider making, Yoder was eager to run his own food business. With Vermont’s abundance of amazing local milk, small-scale cheesemaking just made sense. Yoder began his adventures in cheesemaking in a facility in Vergennes where he focused on two products: Organic Champlain Triple and Old Fashioned Organic Cream Cheese. Both have been awarded well-deserved honors from the prestigious American Cheese Society.

Carleton Yoder

Over the years, the creamery has continued to grow and expand its offerings, eventually moving into a net-zero solar-powered facility on Middlebury’s Exchange Street in 2012. Yoder and his small crew now produce an expanded lineup of cheeses including Queso Fresco (available in original, house-smoked, and pepper varieties),  Maple Cream Cheese, a pyramid-shaped triple cream with a layer of ash known as Pyramid Scheme, and, most recently, they began importing Italian truffles to produce the Champlain Truffle Triple.

 

The Creamery also made a recent switch to using 100% grass-fed organic milk from the Severy Farm in Cornwall. The milk only travels a few short miles from the farm to the creamery, where the cheesemaking begins within hours of arrival. The use of grass-fed milk results in a richer, creamier cheese that displays subtle seasonal changes reflective of the changing diet of the cows as the seasons progress. It’s truly the terroir of Addison County in each decadent bite of cheese.

salting a fresh batch of Queso Fresco

Yoder is supported by a small crew that is just as dedicated to the craft as he is. They use traditional techniques and small-batch pasteurization to produce their cheeses entirely by hand.  A recent visit to their facility found the crew in constant motion, measuring, stirring, monitoring temperatures, and generally putting every bit of the day’s fresh batch of milk to good use. The bulk of the cream and whole milk are used to produce the Organic Champlain Triple, Champlain Truffle Triple, and the two varieties of cream cheese. The part-skim milk is then transformed into each of the three varieties of Queso Fresco, and the whey is drained off to create hand-dipped, basket-strained ricotta that is only available to a few select restaurants in the area. The only remaining by-product is a small amount of whey, which is sent to feed the happy pigs at Hinesburg’s Full Moon Farm, resulting in an operation that his hyper-local with very minimal waste. 

Amanda Warren & Carleton Yoder, with Carleton’s daughter,  Lila Cook Yoder, who was helping out on a snow day

According to Yoder, “cheesemaking is hard work but we strive to let the milk, cream, culture, salt, and mold shine through with their amazing flavors.” It’s this minimalist approach and the desire to honor the high-quality local ingredients that make Champlain Valley Creamery’s cheeses shine.

Picture hanging above Yoder’s desk made by his son, Nate

 

June is Dairy Month

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.

Happy grass-fed cows at Butterworks Farm

National Support

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.  

Happy grass-fed cows at Larson Farm & Creamery