Grantee: Vermont Cheese Council
Cooperation Creates Rewarding Market Opportunities
Autumn oak. Maple smoked Gouda. Cider smoked Plymouth. No, these are not the orange, simulated “cheeses” that many of us were raised on. Vermont’s artisan and farmstead cheese makers rode a wave of national popularity in the 1990s, but soon realized, recalled Jed Davis of Cabot Creamery, that “We’re really pretty darn insignificant compared to big states like California. We knew that we weren’t going to gain as much by being competitors as we are by cooperating together.” VSJF funding was used to help organize the Vermont Cheese Council (VCC) and to assist its first 12 members market their products, share technical assistance with each other, develop quality standards for Vermont cheeses using the Council’s label, develop a fundraising plan, complete the VCC website, and produce a logo.
Vermont’s artisan and farmstead cheeses are delicious morsels, renowned by top chefs and connoisseurs for their taste and quality. More than half of VCC’s now 41 members have won awards. At the 2006 American Cheese Society conference the Clothbound Cheddar collaboration between Jasper Hill Farm and Cabot Creamery won best in show. “People were scratching their heads,” laughs Davis, “Cabot makes the cheese? And Jasper Hill ages the cheese? And you don’t fight about this? For that cheese to win best in show provided validation for everything that Vermont is all about. Not that there’s just great cheese coming out of here, but that our whole approach to it is innovative and unique.”
The VCC represents a transition from commodity to value-added agricultural production, which yields a higher rate of return for farmers and a more diverse range of products for consumers.