Posts Tagged: cheese
Today artisan cheesemaking is a $119-million dollar industry in Marin and Sonoma, and the two counties are home to the second-largest concentration of artisan and farmstead cheesemakers in the country. The trend in farmstead and artisan cheesemaking shows no sign of slowing — membership in the California Artisan Cheesemakers' Guild increased 15 percent in 2014.
Navigating the start-up of any business is hard work, but cheesemaking has its own special challenges. UC Agriculture and Natural Resources has published a bestselling manual designed for the beginning cheesemaker. Farmstead and Artisan Cheeses: A Guide to Building a Business walks readers through the steps necessary to establishing a cheesemaking business.
California has a rich history of cheesemaking, this year the Marin French Cheese Company celebrates its 150th anniversary, making it the longest continually operating cheese company in the United States.
Starting in the mid-1990s, California cheesemaking began a renaissance with a handful of dedicated small producers. UC Cooperative Extension advisors nurtured the emerging farmstead and artisan cheesemaking culture. Working with local producers, they developed the cheesemaking certificate program offered at the College of Marin and published what is now the leading book on building an artisan and farmstead cheese business; industry surveys lent credibility to the emerging market and enabled the growing ranks of cheesemakers to secure start-up funds.
So where do you start if you'd like to try your hand at cheesemaking?
The California Cheese Trail website offers a wealth of information about cheesemaking classes for everyone from the novice making their first ricotta at home to professional certificate programs. Likewise, Grown in Marin, a resource of UC Cooperative Extension in Marin County, posts an exhaustive list of resources for the North Bay, epicenter of the California's artisan cheese movement.
The 9th annual California Artisan Cheese Festival takes place March 20 - 22, 2015 in Petaluma. This celebration of real California culture brings together artisan cheesemakers, chefs, and the public for three days of seminars, tastings, and farm tours.
That sounds simple, but like most laws, there are plenty of caveats. The legislation has stipulations about the types of foods allowable, registration, permits and labeling requirements. UC Cooperative Extension has been helping farmers and home gardeners who produce fruits, vegetables, nuts, herbs, and honey take advantage of the new opportunity at workshops around the state, reported the Stockton Record.
Shermain Hardesty, UC Small Farm Program extension economist, is coordinating the project. Hardesty thinks that marketing may be the hardest part of creating a successful cottage food businesses for many farmers and other entrepreneurs. At the workshops, Hardesty teaches the basic "Four P's" of marketing: product, place, price and promotion.
In other news ...
Also catching the entrepreneurial spirit is UC Master Gardener Janet Fletcher, reported Paul Franson in the Napa Valley Register. Fletcher - an author, cheese expert and editor of the Napa County Master Gardener newsletter - is launching her own new online newsletter, called "Planet Cheese."
Fletcher wrote a cheese column for the San Francisco Chronicle for 10 years. The column was discontinued with the upcoming coalescence of food and wine coverage in the newspaper's home section, the Register article said.
Planet Cheese is a way for Fletcher to keep writing and learning about her favorite subject. The weekly newsletter on all things cheese - products, people, places and news - includes seasonal recipes, class announcements, and commentary on food, wine, beer, gardening and culinary travel. Sign up for the free newsletter at http://janetfletcher.com.
Wortham cited the UC Cooperative Extension publication Coming of Age: The Status of North Bay Artisan Cheesemaking, written by UCCE community development advisor Ellie Rilla and published earlier this year. Of the 22 artisan cheese producers in Marin and Sonoma counties in 2010, 10 were dairy farms that use their own milk, the report says. Four more artisan cheese producers are in the process of starting up, even as four dairies in the two counties went out of business last year.
These 22 producers in total made almost eight million pounds of cheese last year, covering 95 varieties, which sold at retail for as much as $30 a pound, according to the report.
"We're where wine was 30 years ago," Rilla told the reporter. "It doesn't look like there's any chance of a bubble popping in the foreseeable future."
The development of an artisan cheesemaking industry in Sonoma and Marin counties is enhancing the ambience of agriculture in the picturesque rural community, according to Stephanie Larson, the director of UC Cooperative Extension in Sonoma County.
She made the comment in an article that ran over the weekend in the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat about dairies adding value to their product by creating gourmet cheeses. Much of the data shared in the story came from a report developed by UCCE community development advisor Ellie Rilla, Coming of Age: The Status of North Bay Artisan Cheesemaking, which was released in January.
Marin and Sonoma counties have 22 commercial cheese plants which produce 8 million pounds of artisan cheese each year, with a retail value of $119 million, according to the study.
"It's the largest concentration in California," the story quoted Rilla. She said one-third of the businesses have been making cheese for three years or less.
Though growing, the North Bay's artisan cheese business is tiny compared to California's commodity cheese industry, which produces 2 billion pounds of cheese annually, half of it mozzarella.
Many artisan cheesemakers turn to organic production and special blends to set themselves apart. For example, producer Craig Romanni plans to be the area's first buffalo mozzarella maker and the Bohemian Creamery near Sebastopol makes nine different cheeses, including a sheep/cow blend infused with cacao nibs, the story said.
The UCCE report on artisan North Bay cheesemaking.