The Washington State Cheesemakers Association is proud to announce that it has been selected as a 2021 recipient of the USDA Agriculture Marketing Service’s Farmers Market Promotion Program grant.
Washington may not be “America’s Dairyland,” but it is a cheese state. There are 53 licensed cheesemakers in Washington. This number includes farmstead cheesemakers who are dairy farmers, artisan cheesemakers who purchase milk for value‐added cheesemaking, and industrial‐level creameries. Most Washington cheesemakers produce cheeses on small or medium scale, selling less than $250,000 annually. Many of their cheeses are not available in stores, as they sell exclusively from farm stands or farmer’s markets.
The Washington State Cheesemakers Association (WASCA) was founded in 2015 to support cheesemakers through education, promotion, and collaboration. FMPP funds will assist WASCA in efforts to educate consumers about the variety and quality of cheeses made in Washington. Many consumers became conscious of the importance of their local food economy during the COVID‐19 pandemic. WASCA would like to build that momentum to help Washington cheesemakers expand their market reach and attract more customers through four major initiatives:
- Strengthening cheesemakers’ ability to draw long‐term sales by providing them educational trainings in food safety, regulations, and cheesemaking science.
- Establishing a “Washington Cheese Month” celebrated with in‐person and virtual events to engage cheesemakers and farmers, consumers, and vendors;
- Building a “Meet the Cheesemakers” campaign to connect consumers directly with cheesemakers via agritourism, festivals, educational seminars and tastings, and other communications;
- Developing a retail marketing campaign for Washington cheeses sold in grocery stores, including a cheesemonger education program and merchandise signage.
This three-year monetary grant award from the USDA AMS is being supported by the time and work of a number of local organizations, including Tilth Alliance, Genuine Skagit Valley, Dairy Farmers of Washington, DPI Specialty Foods, the Seattle Cheese and Meat Festival, WSU Creamery, and the Northwest Agriculture Business Center.
The Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Programs (FMLFPP) awarded a total of $75.4 million to 172 projects across 41 states to support the development, coordination, and expansion of direct producer to consumer markets and local and regional food business enterprises. FMLFPP is implemented through two components, the Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP) and the Local Food Promotion Program (LFPP). FMPP awarded $37.5 million to 84 projects to support direct producer-to-consumer marketing projects such as farmers markets, community-supported agriculture programs, roadside stands, and agritourism.
To learn more about WASCA, visit www.washingtoncheese.org. For a full list of grant recipients and to learn more about AMS’s investments in enhancing and strengthening agricultural systems, visit www.ams.usda.gov/grants.