Spotlight on Plymouth Artisan Cheese

Our Member Deals Spotlight shines brightly this week on a family-run cheese factory hailing from the hills of Plymouth, Vermont known as Plymouth Artisan Cheese! From November 26th – December 1st, member-owners can enjoy a 20% discount on our full line of Plymouth cheeses, many of which are wax-dipped making them ideal for mailing to friends and family hoping for a taste of Vermont this holiday season. Read on to explore the rich history of the second-oldest functioning cheese-making facility in the country and the family that revived its age-old cheesemaking traditions:


Plymouth cheese was first founded in 1890 by Colonel John Coolidge, father of President Calvin Coolidge, the 30th President of the United States. The factory still occupies the original building constructed in 1890 by Colonel John Coolidge, who created Plymouth Cheese to turn extra milk on his dairy farm into a product with a longer shelf life. Located on the Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site in Plymouth Notch, Vermont, for more than 125 years, it is the second oldest functioning cheese factory in the country. The recipe used by Coolidge was consistent with the typical granular curd recipe that the first European settlers brought with them in the 1600s.

The Plymouth Cheese Factory, located on the Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site in Plymouth Notch, VT. Photo by Jack Daryl Photography.

The dairy farm remained in the Coolidge family for several generations until 2009 when cheesemaker and Vermont native Jesse Werner fulfilled a lifelong dream by purchasing the business. Jesse is a graduate of the Vermont Institute of Artisanal Cheese (VIAC) at the University of Vermont where he studied the craft including chemistry, microbiology, cultures, and artisanal cheese design. He went on to apprentice with Marc Andre St. Yves of Fromager Conseil ENC/INTERNATIONAL. When the opportunity to take over arose, Jesse jumped.

Jesse then embarked on the momentous task of reviving the Plymouth Cheese Factory and that original 1890’s granular curd cheese recipe, which he found while bringing the antique cheese factory and its equipment back to life.  The revamped facility houses the complete cheesemaking process with all production, storage, waxing, and aging occurring right there on campus. To craft their cheeses, Plymouth Artisan Cheese uses only the finest, pasture-raised raw cow’s milk, free of additives, antibiotics, and rBST. The milk is sourced from a single dairy herd from a sustainable, seventh-generation family farm 40 minutes up the road from the Coolidge homestead. The rich, open-bodied texture of granular curd cheese requires skillful cutting and continuous stirring of the curds — an artform that Jesse is proud to practice. Paying homage to traditional cheesemaking techniques, Plymouth Cheese continues to hand-dip many of its cheeses in colorful wax — the way it was done over 125 years ago on the Plymouth homestead.

Jesse runs the business with the support of his brilliant wife, Sarit, who has a strong background in Graphic Design as the former head graphic artist for Ralph Lauren’s Blue Label. Sarit is responsible for designing the brand and packaging, with its signature vintage brass cheese stencils and period typography.  She also manages Plymouth Artisan Cheese’s Marketing, Sales, and social media presence. In true family business fashion, Jesse’s parents pitch in by bringing the cheese to the people and supporting backend operations. Together with their team members, Jesse and family are keeping the Plymouth tradition alive, producing cheese that is as appealing to the eye as it is to the palate.

Today, Plymouth is the closest cheese you can find to the blocks that graced the kitchen tables of America’s first farmers. Their lineup includes eight vibrantly colored waxed-block variations of the original Plymouth recipe and two cave-aged wheels (a washed rind called Grace’s Choice and a Tomme de Savoie-style called Plymouth Tomme). Three of their waxed blocks — Sage & Herbs, Original, and Hot Pepper have earned coveted awards from the American Cheese Society.

The public is invited to visit the Plymouth Cheese Factory, which is open daily from 11-4 for self-guided tours to explore the historic factory and observe Jesse and his assistants as they create Plymouth Cheese. More often than not, Jesse will come out and wax poetic about his beloved craft. In addition to their factory store, they also have a charming museum and education center on the second floor that takes patrons back in time to experience the history of cheesemaking in Vermont. They are confident that once you have tasted their cheeses you will appreciate and understand their obsessive attention to detail and passion for preserving and growing the natural working landscapes here in Vermont.

Spotlight on Agricola Farm

Have you ever met someone so passionate about what they do that their enthusiasm is nearly palpable? Alessandra Reillini of Agricola Farm is just that someone and we’re excited to shine our Member Deals Spotlight on her farm this week. All Agricola Farm meats are 20% off for member-owners from December 26th – 31st, so it’s a great time to stock up the freezer. Read on to learn more about this ecologically-focused farm raising animals in the lush pastures of Panton, VT and the passionate Italian farmers that bring it to life:

About the Farmers

Agricola is a small diversified Italian farm in Panton, VT run by Alessandra (Ale) and Stefano (Steu). They, along with their small crew, are the farmers, the butchers, the vendors, and the chefs.  Ale originally founded the farm in 2007 with three pigs, four sheep, and big dreams. After earning a  Ph.D. in Psychology from Yale School of Medicine, she was lured to the Green Mountain State to UVM where she continues to serve as a Professor of Clinical Psychology when she’s not hard at work on the farm.  Stefano is an Agronomist and has a Masters in Agricultural Science from the University of Turin, in Italy. They share a love of good food, good company, an intense work ethic, and a strong commitment to environmental stewardship.

The Agricola “Farmily”

They specialize in raising and preparing gourmet meats and are particularly well known for their pasture-raised pork. On their farm, you’ll also find Icelandic sheep and heritage breed chickens, for both eggs and meat, along with apiaries for farm-fresh honey. In 2019 they also began raising ducks and geese and they grow many Italian varieties of vegetables and herbs, which you can sample if you’re lucky enough to attend one of their famous farm dinners, or you happen to visit their lovely farmstand during the summer months. At the farmstand, you’ll also find unique seasonal treats including fresh-baked bread, handmade Italian pasta, wildcrafted herbal teas, and artisanal soaps made with their pork lard, along with a stunning array of their fresh and cured meats.

Agricola Farm Stand in Panton, VT

The Italian Way

Ale, Steu, and the rest of their “Farmily” are committed to raising livestock the traditional Italian Way. What does this mean?

  1. The diet they choose to offer their animals promotes more natural growth. They use less sugar (no corn or whey) and fewer proteins (no soy) than the average pig diet. They also select non-GMO feed and avoid feed that speeds the oxidation process of the meat, such as brassicas and soy. Thanks to their diet and genetics, their pigs are predisposed to grow slower, reaching butchering weight at 14+ months, as compared to the usual 6 months for conventionally raised pigs. Why is this important? Muscles that grow slower are more flavorful. Many chefs describe Agricola Farm’s pork as complex and naturally flavored.
  2.  The animals can best express their pigness in pastures. Agricola Farm’s pigs are rotationally-grazed, moving to a new paddock bi-weekly, which allows them to graze the land naturally rich in grasses, legumes, parsnip roots, Jersualem artichokes, fruits, and hickory nuts. Running, digging, and grazing is a great exercise that keeps the pigs happy, entertained, and improves the flavor of the meat. According to Ale, “there is an unexplainable satisfaction in seeing pigs harvesting their own food straight from the land.” Ale and her farmily seed the pastures with grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables that they know the pigs will enjoy and they take great satisfaction in watching the pigs forage and feast.
  3. Agricola Farm processes their own meat following traditional Italian techniques for handling and cutting the meat. This allows them to celebrate their heritage while also maximizing the tenderness and flavor of their products. 

In short, the Italian Way means healthier animals, a more natural and enjoyable way of life for the animals, greater fertility for the land, and higher quality meat for the consumer. 

Happy pigs foraging in a fresh paddock

Looking Forward

Ale and her team have been hard at work rolling out an exciting new project — the opening of Agricola Meats in Middlebury! This meat processing facility will allow them the space, equipment, and flexibility to produce their own cured meat products, along with creating unique products for four other local farms. In her blog, Ale shares that, “the new facility allows us to produce a variety of cured meats such as prosciutto, coppa, pancetta, lonzino, and zillions of other products. We are so excited and ready for this shift! Our hearts also warm up because of the enthusiasm that we find for the project all around us: from the farmers that are happy to finally get a fair price for their livestock and create a unique quality product, from the shop owners that are proud to promote a product in which they believe, and from the people that buy the product and discover a delicious and nutritious way to promote responsible agriculture and be part of the green change that is happening at our farms. It has been a wild and happy ride to get this project going and we have countless people that helped us on the way.  I feel so humbled that so many people have just offered their time and their expertise and many of them have done that without asking for a compensation, only because they believed in the importance of the project… the importance of supporting Vermont Farms, the importance of supporting a type of agriculture that helps our environment and the importance of creating a top product that can make Vermont proud.”

Icelandic Sheep on pasture at Agricola Farm

Here at the Co-op, we’re grateful to work with farmers like Ale and Steu who are so dedicated to the craft of ecological farming and sustainable meat production. It’s critical that we, as consumers, support farmers that prioritize animal welfare and environmental stewardship. Agricola Farm takes pride in their products and they’re excited to become part of your family dinner table.

ducklings at the farm