What a weekend! After a great Saturday traipsing around Hawthorne Valley Farm, Scrapple and I took a trip up to my home state for the Vermont Cheesemakers Festival. Cheese fest? In Vermont? We didn't need any more convincing. We weren’t entirely sure what to expect, but we happily signed up as volunteers to help with vendor set-up. Volunteering was a great way to save $35 each on a ticket and get a chance to meet the cheesemakers. After set-up we were free to spend an amazing day indulging in VT artisan cheese, beer, chocolate, and conversation. We're sure to be first in line to volunteer again next year!
We arrived at Shelburne Farms at 8am for our Vendor Set-up shift and were stunned by the beauty and sheer massiveness of the farm (approx. 400 acres bordering Lake Champlain). I had been once or twice to their working museum when I was in elementary school and have fond memories of churning butter but somehow not a one of the amazingly stunning architecture or the idyllic location on Lake Champlain. The sun was shining, a soft breeze was blowing, and the cheese was rolling in! And ooh the cheese!
The festival hosted over 40 cheesemakers, 20 wineries and breweries, and 15 artisan food producers. Volunteering for vendor setup was an awesome move - it gave us the chance to chat up several different cheesemakers while we were helping them set up their stands, before the flood of visitors arrived and cheese-fest mayhem set in. After set-up we took a walk around and met another handful of outstandingly friendly and helpful people all while sampling some of the most amazing artisan cheeses the US has to offer.
Marisa Mauro chatted with us about her experiences making cheese all over the country before finally recently launching her own Ploughgate Creamery in Vermont. Jill Jones from the historic Crowley Cheese (the country's oldest continuously operating cheese factory founded in 1824) imparted some wisdom about scale and spoke to us about how hard it is to find the right balance - too small and you’re not supporting yourselves, too big and you’re running a labor force instead of making cheese! Tim Hollander from Bob White Systems helped us to better understand the intricacies involved in setting up one’s own micro-creamery and passed along some great resources. Everyone we met and spoke with was so open and friendly - happy to answer our dozens of questions and even invite us for a visit!
Having the chance to speak and connect with cheesemakers of all different ages, experience levels, and business models was priceless and we hope to see them in action on their home turf soon!
I took tons of photos of Shelburne Farms as well as some others we passed on our drive home - such a beautiful place and so hard to stop clicking! Here are just a few...