Greetings, WASCA Members and Friends!
- Message From the Executive Director
- WASCA Business
- Wanted: Board Members
- Stickers are Coming!
- A Shiny, New Site
- Giving Tuesday is Nov. 30
- Save the Date for Jan. 21
- Thank You to Hygiena
- Committee Updates
- Members in the News
LETTER FROM THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
Dear WASCA Members,
Autumn is my favorite season. Having grown up in the Arizona desert, the advent of crisp fall breezes has long been a hopeful event for me—the first glimmer of hope that the long, miserable summer is about to end. Here in Washington, we have the luxuries of glowing fall color on our deciduous trees reminding us every year how fortunate we are to live in this beautiful state. During this time of cooling seasonal change, I can’t help but look back on my first full year as your executive director—and what a trip it has been.
When I wrote our spring newsletter, we were looking forward to emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time, that looked like a return to in-person events, agritourism, active sampling, and something resembling “normal life.” Since we are still unfortunately living in the same reality we had hoped would be behind us by now, it is easy to feel stagnant and stuck in this world of ours. Despite the challenges we continue to face, I feel we have a lot to look forward to in the year ahead.
One of the bright spots in 2021 has been delivering our WASCA-logo cooler bags to everyone who renewed their membership or joined this year. Arranging those deliveries provided a moment to communicate with each of you. This provided me a spatial reminder of WASCA’s diversity. We have members scattered across Washington from Pullman to Olympia, and from Ferndale to Camas. Outside of Washington, we have members as near as Oregon and British Columbia, and as far as Wisconsin and Montreal. Having a reason to communicate with each and every one of our members made WASCA’s work feel tangible in a way that has been hard to experience during the pandemic.
A highlight of those in-person deliveries involved meeting the folks behind Clover Mountain Dairy. Virginia and Stacy traveled from Chewelah to Carnation to pick up some feed for their certified organic herd of eight Jersey cows, which provided an excellent opportunity for me to meet them in person. Clover Mountain Dairy is one of WASCA’s newest licensed cheesemaker members—and they are one of our state’s newest cheesemakers, too. (Fun fact: their first date was at a Mozzarella plant in Wisconsin!) They had just begun making Feta and Caerffili (Caerphilly) this summer, selling it at the farmers market where they have been selling their milk and yogurt for years. The response to their new cheeses was tremendous, and it’s not hard to see why.
In our current day, dairy farming is often portrayed as one of the evils propagating climate change. This image is helped along by the plethora of vegan companies popping up to offer alternatives to cheese that are made from water-intensive nuts and seeds. My conversation with Virginia and Stacy cut right to the meat of that matter, as we discussed regenerative agriculture, organic farming, and the possibilities for a successful and sustainable small-herd business model. Their passion for dairy farming, and for their new cheesemaking enterprise, got me fired up.
Now, more than ever, we need to tell the stories of our cheesemakers and their work (which is something WASCA’s marketing committee has been working on with weekly social media member spotlights). As I recently heard in an episode of the podcast, “Cutting the Curd,” cheesemakers have the same rights to talk about sustainability and preservation of the environment that vegan companies are using to connect with consumers. Putting a face on the facts is part of WASCA’s duty to the Washington cheesemaking community, and my job is in finding more ways to help get the word out.
Just prior to my meeting with Virginia and Stacy from Clover Mountain Dairy, I had attended a seminar from Oregon State University in the Farm 2 Fork Series; the title was, “Insights into Scaling Artisan Cheese – Why gold medal creameries go belly up while Elsa and Anna string cheese sells in 20,000 stores nationwide.” The speaker was Shawn Fels of Portland Creamery, and his talk discussed the gap between the smallest and largest creameries. This trend is mirrored within WASCA’s own membership, as most of our cheesemaker members are at the smallest level of production, with a handful at the top, and very few in the middle. Shawn argued that it is possible for small producers to successfully scale up into the middle area without compromising their values or going broke.
Even during a pandemic, there are signs of growth in the industry. As I heard from many of our cheesemakers this summer, there was so much demand for local cheeses that production couldn’t keep up. Many of them were selling out every week at the farmers markets and didn’t have enough cheese left to sell into their retail accounts. While this is a sad problem for those who don’t get to the cheese first, it is positive to see consumer demand unflagging despite the pandemic dragging on and the steady rise of the alternative dairy category in retail. There is hope in the demand for local cheese, just as there is hope in new cheesemakers creating cheeses in our state.
Now that November is upon us, we can look forward to a holiday season that, like last year, promises to be very busy even if we can’t exactly project by how much. Before we all know it, it will be 2022 (and we will be preparing for our Annual Member Meeting!). While we weren’t able to meet at any in-person events and festivals this year, I have hope that we will get there in 2022. Whatever the next year looks like, I am excited to continue serving you all, to spread the word of good Washington curd, and to get some events on our calendar for the first time in two years.
Thinking ahead to our annual meeting in January, I am currently planning our agenda and guest speaker. One of the topics on the agenda is figuring out what events you are interested in taking part in next year. Some ideas I have include more educational webinars and regular Zoom happy hours for members. In the meantime, let me know if you have any ideas, whether they be for specific educational seminars you would like to see or any other events that would help support your work and that of the cheese community in our state.
I wish you all a successful, happy, and healthy holiday season. As always, please feel free to reach out if you have any questions or concerns, and ideas for WASCA and how you can get involved, or if you just want to chat about cheese.
Courtney C. Johnson, PhD, ACS CCP
Executive Director, Washington State Cheesemakers Association
Wanted: Board Members– Two of our board of director members, Meghan McKenna and Carey Hunter, will be retiring from their three-year tenure in January. This leaves open two spots on WASCA’s board of directors. Candidates for these spots on the board must be licensed cheesemaker members. The positions last for three years, and entail attending quarterly board meetings, keeping abreast of WASCA happenings, and working with our committees. Board members may also receive a $100 credit toward their membership dues. If you are interested or know a licensed cheesemaker who should be on the board, please send us an email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stickers are Coming!– The “Choose Washington Cheese” stickers that we designed will be rolling out to you in the coming weeks. Every licensed cheesemaker member and every retailer or distributor business member will receive one complimentary roll of 250 stickers as part of their membership. If you wish to order more stickers, you may reimburse WASCA by way of a donation in the amount of the cost of the stickers. For more information about re-ordering, send us an email email@example.com.
A Shiny, New Site– Our marketing committee has been working diligently this summer to prepare a new website for WASCA. The new website will be unveiled in the coming weeks. It is the committee’s goal for the website to allow us to show more love for our members (include scrapbook-style pages of highlights for each licensed cheesemaker member following their monthly member spotlight) and engage more deeply with cheesemakers, cheese businesses, and cheese lovers.
Giving Tuesday is Nov. 30– WASCA took part in Give BigWA!’s May fundraiser, which earned us just over $500 toward this year’s budget shortfalls. We will be taking part in Give Big’s November fundraiser opportunity, Giving Tuesday, which takes place on November 30. Be on the lookout for announcements and ways that you can help us raise some money for our 2022 operating budget.
Save the Date for Jan. 21– The board has set a date for WASCA’s annual member meeting on January 21, 2022. We will announce our guest speaker as we get closer to the date. In the meantime, be on the lookout for a survey to gauge interest in how we hold next year’s meeting (in person, online only, or a hybrid format). The survey should go out on November 15.Thank You to Hygiena – We would like to thank Daniel Wing and WASCA business member Hygiena for providing a free food safety and testing webinar to WASCA members on September 20. If you missed the webinar but want to see some of the information covered, just send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will share Daniel’s presentation with you.
Our committees are always in need of volunteers. If you would like to share some of your time with one or more of our committees, please send us an email to email@example.com.
Buying Committee– If you know of any businesses that would like to offer discounts to WASCA members, please connect them with the Buying Committee Chair, Kallijah Paraska (firstname.lastname@example.org). The Buying Committee has arranged the following discounts for WASCA members:
- Exact Scientific: WASCA member discount on lab tests.
- The Cheese Connection: WASCA member discount on cultures, enzymes, rennet, cheese wrappers, and additives.
- Dairy Connection: Bulk discounts on cultures, enzymes, and rennet.
- AMS Direct NW: Small-lot label printing and design with no set-up charge for WASCA members.
- Northwest Editors Guild: Partnership with a select group of editors offering copyediting, content management, web design, and proofreading services for WASCA members.
Education & Regulations Committee– The Education Committee is currently planning educational events for 2022, including arranging a speaker for the Annual Member Meeting in January. In 2021, the committee arranged a free food safety and testing webinar for WASCA members through Hygiena. The committee also identified WASCA’s best point of contact with the Washington State USDA and developed a Resources page on the WASCA website. If you have any ideas for next year’s lineup of educational events, please reach out to Education Committee Chair, Meghan McKenna (email@example.com).
Grant Applications Committee– In May, the Grant Applications committee learned that the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service had opened applications for the Farmers Market Promotion Program. The committee rushed to put together a solid application before the end of the short deadline and has submitted a grant proposal that would secure three years of funding to promote Washington cheesemakers through marketing support, a retail sales campaign and a series of cheese-focused events around the state, and would provide additional funding for educational opportunities for cheesemakers. The USDA has notified the committee that our application is in the final review stage, and we eagerly await the award announcements. 😉 The committee sends heartfelt thanks to all those who helped with the application, including Marc Bates, John Haugen, Patrick Bleck, Dave Bain, Janee’ Muha, Steve Jones, the Northwest Agriculture Business Center, Tilth Alliance, Genuine Skagit Valley, Dairy Farmers of Washington, DPI Specialty Foods, and 21 Acres. If you know of any other potential funding or fundraising opportunities for WASCA (a 501(c)6 non-profit), please notify Grant Applications Committee Chair Courtney Johnson (Courtney.firstname.lastname@example.org).
Membership Committee– This spring, the Membership Committee successfully lobbied the Board of Directors to update WASCA’s membership policy, changing the terms of membership from a calendar-year term (January through December of each year) to a rolling 12-month term (beginning the day you join or renew and ending 12 months later). This change will allow members to get the most out of their annual WASCA membership, and it will give the Membership Committee freedom to solicit new members year-round. If you would like to join the Membership Committee, or if you know of any creameries, businesses, or individuals who would like to become members, please send a message to Membership Committee Chair Patrick Bleck (email@example.com).
Marketing Committee– In addition to spearheading the development of a new website, the Marketing Committee remains dedicated to developing regular content for WASCA’s social media channels and posting member spotlights. The committee would like to remind all members that we can help cross-promote your events, awards, new products, and anything else you would like to share widely. The Marketing Committee is also always looking for good pictures from our creameries and business members, and of beautiful Washington cheeses. Please contact Marketing Committee Chair Rachael Lucas (firstname.lastname@example.org) to get help spreading the word.
USDA Pandemic Relief Grant– The USDA is now soliciting applications from producers for its Pandemic Response and Safety Grant Application. Applications are due on November 22, 2021.
ACS Judging & Competition– The American Cheese Society is now accepting applications for its 2022 Judging & Competition, which will be held on May 19 and 20, 2022, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Winners will be announced during the ACS annual conference in Portland, Oregon, July 20-23, 2022. Producers should go to the awards platform website to enter. The deadline for regular entries has been extended until December 17th, and January 15th is the deadline for late entries. If you have any questions, please reach out to email@example.com.
FDA Seeks Comment– The FDA is now accepting comments on its blueprint of goals set for ensuring the safety of food ordered online and delivered directly to consumers. Comments may be submitted by November 20, 2022.
MEMBERS IN THE NEWS
Cascadia Creamery is a Good Food Finalist– Cascadia Creamery’s (Trout Lake) Glacier Blue is a2022 finalist for the Good Food Awards. Congratulations, Cascadia Creamery!
Lost Peacock Creamery’s Goat Guide on Podcast– Rachael Taylor-Tuller of Lost Peacock Creamery (Olympia) joined Melissa K. Norris on the Pioneering Today podcast in September to discuss the ins-and-outs of buying and raising goats, and starting a small goat dairy.
WSU Creamery Featured on Rachael Ray Show, Website– WSU Creamery (Pullman) students and cheese were highlighted in aMay episode of the Rachael Ray show. The creamery’s Viking Cheese and Cougar Gold were used for subsequent recipes published on the show’s website in August.
Lost Peacock Creamery Airs on Farm Walks– Rachael Taylor-Tuller of Lost Peacock Creamery (Olympia) was featured on episode 10, season 2, of the Tilth Alliance’s Farm Walks podcast. The topic of the podcast was, “Farming as a Healing Space for Veterans,” and discusses Rachael’s experience as an Air Force veteran and a farmer.
Harmony Fields Studies Sheep Farming and Soil Health– Jessica Gigot of Harmony Fields (Bow) published a column called “Sheep grazing appears to have positive impact on soil health” in Spudman, a potato-industry magazine. Jessica’s column discussed the positive results of a research study she completed to discern whether or not rotational sheep grazing can benefit potato farmers who share with or rent land to sheep farmers.
Twin Sisters Creamery Chats Cheese with Mobile Monger– Lindsay Slevin of Twin Sisters Creamery (Ferndale) was interviewed on the June 17 episode of The Mobile Monger Podcast. Washington-based podcaster Janee’ Muha interviewed Lindsay in the episode about how her creamery and retail store weathered the pandemic, and how 2021 was shaping up for cheese sales.
Evergreen Creamery Profiled in Food Blog– Lucas King and Evergreen Creamery (Trout Lake) were profiled in a post on food and cooking blog The Steady Cook. The post detailed Lucas’ mission and the work he is doing with Evergreen Creamery in Trout Lake.
Golden Glen Creamery Featured in Article– Golden Glen Creamery (Bow) was the subject of an article in agriculture newspaper Capital Press. The article discussed the Ruiz family’s creamery and how they get their cheeses out into the hands of consumers.
Harmony Fields Stars in Skagit STEM Program Video– Harmony Fields (Bow) took part in a STEM project for 3rd-5th graders created by Skagitonians to Preserve Farmland. They created this short video about the farm to help spread the word about the agro-ecological work Harmony Fields is doing.
Clover Mountain Dairy Shares Cheesemaking Videos – Clover Mountain Dairy (Chewelah) began making and sharing videos about cheesemaking on their existing YouTube channel. Their short videos are informational and engaging for consumers and budding home cheesemakers alike.
Girl Meets Dirt is a Good Food Finalist– Along with Cascadia Creamery, Girl Meets Dirt (WASCA business member) is a finalist in the 2022 Good Food Awards. Girl Meets Dirt made the cut in the category of Elixirs for their Barrel Aged Peach Tree Bitters, Island Pear with Bay Leaf Shrub, and Island Plum Shrub, and in the category of Preserves for their Pink Bartlett Cutting Preserves.
Cheese and Meat Festival Resumes North of the Border– The Cheese and Meat Festival (WASCA business member) announced two in-person festivals taking place in 2021, including the Vancouver festival that just took place on November 6, and the upcoming festival in Victoria on November 27. The festival hopes to return to Seattle in early 2022.
Hygiena Wins Award– Hygiena (WASCA business member) received the 2021 Food Safety Innovation Award from the International Association for Food Protection. The award was for Hygiena’s BAX System SalQuantTM, which looks for salmonella contamination in poultry.
Reiser Receives Patent for Pizza Crust Cheese-Stuffer– Reiser (WASCA business member) was spotlighted in Cheese Market News for having received a patent from the US Patent and Trademark Office for its invention of a machine that creates a rope out of cheese and deposits it inside pizza dough to create a stuffed-crust pizza.
Girl Meets Dirt Announces Winemaking Project– Girl Meets Dirt (WASCA business member) was featured in an August article in the Seattle Times called, “Girl Meets Dirt Expands its Orcas Island Repertoire From Popular Jams to Fruity Wines.” The article introduced owner Audra Lawler and talked about the new pét-nat wines she will begin fermenting with fruit from the island.
Street Cheese Wins Community Impact Award– Street Cheese (WASCA business member) received the2021 Community Impact Award in the category of women-owned businesses during the Business Impact Northwest Impact Pitch 2021 competition. The award recognized the mobile cheese shop’s commitment to making good cheese accessible to more people and working with a network of local businesses to support local creameries and food producers.
Zupan’s Markets Farm to Market Series Touted– Zupan’s Markets (WASCA business member) was lauded in two beer-industry magazines for its Farm to Market collaborations with local Portland breweries. Brewbound Magazine highlighted the grocer’s partnership with Little Beast Brewing in an article called, “Zupan’s Markets Partners with Little Beast Brewing for 15th Installment in Farm to Market Series,” and Pacific Northwest brewing magazine Brewpublic published an article about Zupans’ partnership with Old Town Brewing Co. in an article titled, “Zupan’s Markets and Old Town Brewing Partner on Farm-to-Market Oktoberfest Märzen-Style Lager.”