Organization Governance

WASCA is managed by a board of seven directors who serve three-year terms. Five of the directors are licensed cheesemakers who are elected by the organization’s voting membership. The two remaining spots may be filled by non-cheesemaker directors who are appointed by the five cheesemaker-member directors. WASCA is also pleased to have an executive director position since 2019. The executive director is hired by the board and undergoes regular reviews and oversight.

Board of Directors

John Haugen - President

John is the Washington State University Creamery Manager.  The Creamery’s main products are Cougar Cheeses, ice cream, and college students with a practical work experience.  The last one of those is the most important.

John was born in Pullman, Washington, and raised in Colfax.  He worked for multiple local farmers while growing up and came to enjoy agricultural work.  He attended Washington State University, graduating with a degree in Civil Engineering in 1993.  John worked at the Creamery as a college student from 1990 to 1993 and returned as the plant engineer in 1995.  In 1999, he became the Assistant Creamery Manager, and Creamery Manger in 2015.

The Creamery contributed to John’s college experience, and that of his wife (not to mention a few other relatives along the way).  Being able to be part of providing that experience for many students over the years has been a rewarding part of the career for John.

Kallijah Paraska - Treasurer

My name is Kallijah Paraska, and I was raised in Buffalo and Lincoln County, Wisconsin. I come from a long tradition of Swiss and German cheesemakers.  Our company, The Cheese Connection LLC (founded in January 2010), allows us to couple old-world cheesemaking tradition with the innovation of cultures, enzymes, coagulants, tools, and supplies from France, Italy, New Zealand, Canada, and the USA. We tailor each cheesemaker’s recipes based upon their unique sensory choice through a combination of products from different manufacturers.  We offer Bioprox France, Biena, CHR Hansen, Danisco, DSM, Renco, and many tools and supplies.

We have backgrounds in dairy and cheesemaking, so we understand the process from milk to end product. Each year, we test new cultures, enzymes, and coagulants from Europe and age these cheeses for sensory analysis. If the end product passes our sensory panel and testing by a licensed laboratory, these new ingredients are added to our product offerings.

Lucas King

Lucas is the owner and cheesemaker at Evergreen Creamery. A small artisan creamery nestled in the Cascade Mountains of southern Washington State.

He grew up in Trout Lake, WA, a town where organic dairy cows outnumbered people 3:1. Dairy wasn’t a the forefront of his thinking until leaving to university in Colorado and returning to the valley to work at Cascadia Creamery. During this stint at Cascadia, Lucas recognized cheese’s ability to support the family dairy farms of Trout Lake. After about a year and a half at Cascadia, he decided to pursue his own cheesemaking journey.

With nothing more than a backpack and a one-way ticket to Iceland, he was off to what would be a non-stop 3-month dive into European cheese, and backpacking from creamery-to-dairy-to-creamery in Iceland, France, Andora, Switzerland, and Italy to learn and glean as much knowledge & information as possible.

Upon returning to Trout Lake in the fall of 2014, he set his eyes on building his own licensed cheesemaking facility. Working as a wildland firefighter in the summers to fund the construction; the facility was completed in 2016, and Evergreen Creamery was licensed and began production in 2018.

Evergreen Creamery now produces various aged cheese all made with organic raw cow’s milk and looks to continue to grow while keeping family farms, community commitment, and the environment as top priorities.

Jessica Gigot

Jessica Gigot owns and operates Harmony Fields in Bow, WA. The farm makes seasonal artisan sheep cheese and grows organic herbs. Harmony Fields also offers a Summer Sheep CSA and sells yarn, wool, and textiles. Jessica has served on the board of Tilth Alliance and Skagitonians to Preserve Farmland. Her academic background is in horticulture and creative writing, and in the off-season she offers classes on food sovereignty, soil biology, poetry, and sheep.

Lorrie Conway

Lorrie Conway operates Conway Family Farms, LLC, with her husband, Shaun. Along with their daughters, Ashley and Amber, they have raised Nubian goats and Border Leicester sheep on their five acres for more than three decades.

Having built the farm from the ground up themselves, Conway Family Farm is a Grade A Dairy and a WSDA-licensed ice cream and cheese processing facility. Lorrie was asked to serve on the WSDA board defining and eliminating barriers to entry for small dairy farms in 2005. In addition, she and Shaun testified in 2006 at Washington State Legislative hearings in favor of the ability for small farmers to safely produce fluid raw milk.

Lorrie and Shaun were recognized in 2006 as Western Region SARE Patrick Madden Award finalists for Sustainable Agriculture for their efforts in sharing their love of small-scale, sustainable agriculture with the public through e-mails, farm visits and tours, phone calls, community events and speaking at conferences. In 2014, Conway Family Farm was featured in Farm & Ranch Living as “The Prettiest Place in the Country.”

Lorrie’s education is in business & management, which she combines with her lifetime experience of farming. The Conways’ farm is an ever-changing model as the family has grown and been challenged by the demands of off-farm, full-time work. Yet the “family” aspect of the farm remains paramount. Although Ashley and Amber have grown up and moved away, the farm is small enough that Lorrie and Shaun alone do the management and production of their value-added products.

Patti Fantello

Patti Fantello is cheesemaker at Fantello Farmstead Creamery. Her interest in making cheese came to her when she was walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain. Her mantra has always been, “if others are doing it, so can you” — So she arranged to take some courses, starting with the cheesemaking course offered at WSU. Then she went to France and learned under Ivan Larcher, to Vermont a couple of times to tour cheese, and took a class given by Peter Dixon. She’s been submersed in milk and books for almost 5 years now creating, experimenting and learning.

Fantello “Farmstead” means she does it all on the farm: milks their Jersey cows, helps deliver the babies, bottle feeds them, and scoops the poo. It is not so easy–but it is cool and she feels rewarded daily with the awesome things folk say about the end product.

Executive Director

Courtney C Johnson, PhD, ACS CCP

Courtney has been a member of the Washington State cheese family since she became a cheesemonger in 2015. Prior to stepping behind the cheese counter, Courtney was on an academic track, learning and teaching at The University of Arizona and UC Berkley. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Journalism, a bachelor’s degree in German Studies, and both a master’s degree and PhD in German. It was while working at Metropolitan Market and at PCC Community Markets, that Courtney found her true calling and embraced the cheese world. She shares her considerable cheese knowledge through cheese education classes, her blog The PhCheese, and by volunteering at industry events. Courtney and her business partner, Tailor Kowis, own and run a mobile cheese shop, Street Cheese, with the goal of making local and artisanal cheese and specialty foods accessible to a broader public.

Courtney promotes local cheeses and the stories of cheesemakers daily with her customers. She is an American Cheese Society Certified Cheese Professional (CCP) and has competed twice in the Cheesemonger Invitational in San Francisco, winning second place in January 2020 and in March 2022! Courtney brings with her strong communication, writing and organizational skills, along with a deep passion for Washington cheese and an admiration for Washington cheesemakers. Courtney is thrilled to have this opportunity to serve our state’s cheesemakers, to share their stories, and to further educate the region’s and nation’s cheese lovers about the great cheeses of Washington State.