Spring 2021 Newsletter

Spring 2021 Newsletter

Spring 2021 Newsletter 2560 2560 admin

Greetings WASCA Members! 

Newsletter Contents

  • Message from the Executive Director
  • FDA Sampling Assignment
  • Comment on Additional Traceability Requirements
  • The Cheese Map is Live!
  • Membership Benefits – Help Us Get Them to You
  • Another New Benefit: Roux
  • Washington Cheese Stickers on the Way
  • Welcome, New Board Members!
  • Committee Updates
  • In the News

Message from the Executive Director

Happy Spring, WASCA Members!

It is hard to believe that we have marked an entire year of the COVID-19 pandemic—one of the most challenging periods many of you have endured in a long time, if not ever.

Over the past year, we have seen restaurants and businesses shuttered, some of them for good, as our idea of “normal” life has taken on a multitude of new meanings with each passing month. I am thankful that our cheese community has been resilient enough to weather the storm, even if it has not been without severe challenges.

Before I joined WASCA as executive director in August, I watched this organization rally in support of our local cheesemakers. From the “Buy Local Cheese” campaign and “Where to Buy Artisan Cheese” spreadsheet that encouraged cheese lovers to seek out local creameries, to the anonymous donor who offered to support some of our hardest-hit cheesemakers, the members of this organization showed bravery, creativity, and a strong sense of camaraderie.

While much of 2020 was a scary time—and we are not out of the woods, to be sure—I cannot help but be encouraged by this community of cheesemakers, industry professionals, businesses, and cheese lovers. 

I am looking out my window at blue sky and sunshine—a welcome respite from the wet and muddy winter we enjoyed. With the passing of the spring equinox and the beginning of Daylight Savings Time’s increasingly longer days, some of you just celebrated the Easter, Passover, and Ramadan holidays. It is my hope that, whatever you believe in outside of cheese, the promise that comes from these vernal festivities is strong enough to carry you forward this season.

As always, please feel free to reach out if you have any questions, concerns, or ideas that will help make WASCA a stronger, more inclusive, and beneficial organization for us all. Do also let us know if you have any press, events, media, or other news that we can share.

Wishing you all the warmth of a gentle spring day,

Courtney C. Johnson, PhD, ACS CCP
Executive Director
Washington State Cheesemakers Association
(520) 253-0291

FDA Sampling Assignment

The FDA has announced a new field sampling assignment to collect samples of up to 800 domestic and imported cheeses. Collection visits, which will test both pasteurized and unpasteurized cheeses, will be announced in advance and will follow COVID-19 safety precautions.

According to the American Cheese Society, “The samples will be tested for Listeria species, Staphylococcus aureus, and staphylococcal enterotoxins. They will not be testing for generic E. coli. Domestic samples will be taken from manufacturing facilities.”

For more information about the assignment, please see the ACS website, which also lists resources to help cheesemakers prepare for the possibility of sampling in their facilities.

The ACS has asked any cheesemakers who are picked for the sampling assignment to reach out with their comments on the process. Please send all feedback to info@cheesesociety.org.

WASCA Comment on Additional Traceability Requirements

On February 22, WASCA submitted comments to the FDA regarding the proposed additional traceability requirements for producers selling more than $500,000 per year. You may view those comments here. The comment period for the proposed rule has ended, and we are awaiting further guidance from the FDA.

The Cheese Map is Live!

The greatly anticipated moment has arrived: WASCA’s Cheese Map is live! The digital version of the map, which features click-through links to all our member creameries, is posted on the WASCA website.

Feel free to link to the map on your own websites, or ask us to send you a copy of the file that you can upload yourself. We hope that this tool will help encourage consumers to purchase Washington cheese and learn more about the creameries in their neighborhoods!

And in case you are wondering, the physical version of the map is coming soon; the file has just gone to the printers.

Membership Benefits – Help Us Get Them to You

Once the print copies of the cheese map are off the press, we will be reaching out to deliver your 2021 benefits packages.

Everyone who renewed or joined WASCA for the 2021 calendar year will receive a refrigerated cooler bag, a print copy of the cheese map, and a Washington Cheese Lover pin. Any member with a retail cheese counter or other business who would like them will also receive a stack of cheese maps to hand out to customers. While we may not be able to offer this every year, we wanted to extend a special thank-you to everyone who has stuck with us throughout the pandemic.

To help keep our shipping costs to a minimum, we will be working together to create central pick-up locations in different parts of the state in May and June. If you would like to host a pick-up spot at your creamery or business, please let us know!

We will send out a list of all pick-up spots in May. If you are not able to pick up your package in person (if, for example, you live in a more isolated locale in rural Washington, Wisconsin, or Quebec), we will need a current mailing address from you so that we can send the package in the mail.

Another New Benefit: Roux

We are excited to announce that WASCA has partnered with Roux, a digital services agency that provides a range of marketing services and new sales channels with special members-only discounts and services. The offering for WASCA members has two parts (and you may take advantage of one or both):

  1. Roux Analytics is a digital services agency for the specialty food industry. They provide digital marketing services like, social media, content creation, customer acquisition, and web optimization.

WASCA-Member Benefits:  

  • A 20-minute brainstorm/consult with Roux Analytics (in addition to Roux’s standard 30 min consultation).
  • 10% off any service and 15% off any bundles of two or more services.
  • This intro offer is good until May 31st.
  1. Your Maker Direct is an online store for customers to buy directly from vendors. The listing company fulfills the order directly and can tailor fulfillment from national shipping to local delivery or pick-up. Hosting is free, and YMD will help and manage uploading products and company information.

WASCA-Member Benefits: 

  • WASCA’s own landing page to highlight members’ stores. 
  • Members pay a discounted sales commission of 12.9%, which includes all transaction fees. 

We will be setting up a few online information sessions for any members who are interested in taking advantage of the discounts being offered. If you have any questions before the information sessions are announced, please reach out to washingtoncheese@gmail.com.

Washington Cheese Stickers on the Way

Thank you to everyone who voted in the two polls to choose our Washington Cheese sticker. The winning design, which you see below, will be available soon. Please let us know if you are interested in purchasing rolls of the stickers for retail use on cut wedges and wheels.  

Welcome, New Board Members!

As we announced at our annual membership meeting in January (available online here), three new licensed cheesemaker members have joined the WASCA Board of Directors this year.

The new board members we welcome are Lucas King (Evergreen Creamery, Trout Lake), Jessica Gigot (Harmony Fields, Bow), and John Haugen (WSU Creamery, Pullman). 

The incumbent board members are Meghan McKenna (President – Cherry Valley Dairy, Duvall), Carey Hunter (Secretary – Pine Stump Farms, Omak), Kallijah Paraska (Treasurer – Cheese Connection), and Rachael Lucas (Ballinger Thriftway).

Thank you to everyone who voted in this year’s election.

Committee Updates

Our committees help keep WASCA running! We are looking for new members to help our Education and Marketing committees—although anyone may sign up to join the committee of their choice. If you are interested in volunteering your time, please send an email to washingtoncheese@gmail.com and let us know which committee(s) you would like to join.

Buying Committee
The Buying Committee is reviewing our existing bulk-buying discounts for 2021.

We will no longer be offering a discount from Gravity Payments, as they have increased the minimum requirements for discounted service, require a minimum three-year contract, and charge a $495 early-termination fee. Since the majority of WASCA cheesemaker members fall below that threshold, the committee and Gravity Payments agreed to suspend the discount.

All of the other WASCA-member discounts from 2020 stand:

  • Exact Scientific: WASCA member discount on lab tests
  • The Cheese Connection: WASCA member discount on cultures, enzymes, rennet, cheese wrappers, and additives
  • Dairy Connection: WASCA member 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

Committee Chair: Kallijah Paraska (kallijah@cheeseconnection.net)

Education & Regulation Committee
The Education & Regulation Committee prepared remarks to submit to the FDA on behalf of the membership, as detailed above. The committee has also created a Resources page on the WASCA website with links to online resources and upcoming educational opportunities.

Additionally, the Education & Regulation Committee has pinpointed a new contact with the WSDA who can help advise WASCA on regulatory issues.

Committee Chair: Meghan McKenna (meghanmaura@gmail.com)

Grants Committee
The Grants Committee has begun meeting for the 2021 grant application season. The committee pinpointed at least one grant to apply for this spring, the USDA Local Food Promotion Program, and is currently preparing materials as they await the release of this year’s request for proposals.

The committee is also exploring other avenues to diversify WASCA’s funding, which has traditionally come exclusively from membership dues and the occasional donation.

Committee Chair: Courtney Johnson (Courtney.cj@gmail.com)

Marketing Committee
The Marketing Committee continues to develop content for the website and our social media channels, including monthly member spotlights. A new cheesemaker is highlighted each month in a trajectory traveling counter-clockwise around the state.

The committee is also creating a new website, which will launch by the end of the summer. The goal is to create an online presence with broad functionality that helps highlight and create further benefits for the membership.

If you have any photos of cheese, your creamery or business, or anything else cheese-related you’d like to share with WASCA, the membership committee is always looking for photos to share on social media and the website. You will of course receive credit for your photo.

Committee chair: Rachael Lucas (cheeseladylukaas@gmail.com)

Membership Committee
The membership committee has completed the bulk of the 2021 renewal campaign, with a 56 percent renewal rate from 2020 to 2021. WASCA currently has a total of 44 current members at all levels, including 10 new members.

The committee continues to contact those who have not renewed for 2021, as well as to engage with potential new members. If you know someone who should be a member of WASCA, please encourage them to sign up online, or have them reach out to washingtoncheese@gmail.com if they have any questions or concerns.

Finally, the membership committee has developed a refreshed membership brochure that is on its way to print. If you are a retailer or business member who would like a stack of brochures for your business, please let us know!

Committee Chair: Patrick Bleck (pb@specialtyfoodsherpa.com)

In the News

Washington Sweeps the Good Food Awards!

Three WASCA members swept the entire North Region cheese category in the 2021 Good Food Awards. Please join us in congratulating Samish Bay Cheese, Ferndale Farmstead, and Cascadia Creamery! The winners were announced in an awards ceremony on January 24, 2021, but we will be celebrating them all year.

WSU Creamery Touted in Capital Press Article.

In an article titled “Demand has remained high at WSU despite COVID” published in Capital Press on March 30, 2021, WSU Creamery Manager and WASCA Board Member John Haugen details how the creamery has adapted to COVID-19 safety requirements while maintaining its sales channels for cheese and ice cream.

Award Winners, WASCA Featured in Cheese Reporter. 

On March 19, 2021, the cheese and dairy industry publication Cheese Reporter published a front-page article about Washington’s three Good Food Award-winning cheesemakers and the growth of the cheese industry in Washington State. The article interviewed each of the three creameries, as well as WASCA President Meghan McKenna and Executive Director Courtney Johnson.

Lost Peacock Creamery Docuseries Gains Attention. 

Lost Peacock Creamery created a YouTube docuseries titled “Chasing Meadows” that details family life on their farm and during journeys into the wilderness. The series’ individual videos, which were produced between July 2020 and January 2021, have been viewed more than 5,000 times.

Sagging Fence Farm Spotlighted on Local Chef’s Blog. 

Sagging Fence Farm’s Goat Tomme was the star of a profile post in chef Jim Drohman’s blog on January 10, 2021. Drohman, who runs Seattle restaurants Le Pichet and Café Presse, profiled the Tomme in a recurring feature titled, “Better Know a Cheese.”

Cougar Gold Lore Covered in Sports Website Article. 

In a December 25, 2020, article titled “Ever wonder why WSU’s famed  Cougar Gold cheese is called Cougar Gold?” published on the website 247 Sports, the history and lore behind the name of our state’s famous cheese in a can—as well as the cheese’s founder who lent it his name—are detailed from a sports fan’s perspective.

Pine Stump Farms Featured in Taste Washington Travel

On December 15, 2020, Pine Stump Farms and its cheeses were featured in an article titled, “Pine Stump Farms: A Palatal Tour” in the online publication, Taste Washington Travel. The article was written by WASCA BOD member Rachael Lucas.

Cougar Gold Included in College Cheese Article

WSU Creamery’s Cougar Gold was one of the stars in an article about the “3 Most Fascinating College Cheeses” published in the online publication, Cheese Professor, on November 18, 2020.

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