Table of Contents:
- Letter from the Executive Director
- WASCA Business
- FMPP Grant Updates
- WASCA Members In the News
Dear WASCA Members and Cheese Lovers,
Can we all agree 2022 is a strange year? From one of the coldest, wettest springs on record to an on-again, off-again relationship with a COVID-19 pandemic that just won’t die, it is hard to know how to plan for anything.
In-person events have come back, but not quite as we imagined a year ago. I have heard many of you are not yet ready to return to events, while others have embraced them with vigor. A couple of cheesemakers expressed they felt exhausted even before they started making cheese this year, and others yet said they feel 2022 is a “wait and see” year—a time to recharge, take stock, and recalibrate while the pandemic (hopefully) ends and we see what the future holds.
Despite the ongoing uncertainties, I’ve been fortunate to travel three times in the name of cheese. First, I made a personal journey to San Francisco, CA, in March to compete in the Cheesemonger Invitational. I am proud to have brought home the 2nd-place title for the second time—while 1st place went to another Pacific Northwest cheesemonger, Sam Rollins of Cowbell Fine Cheese in Portland. The last time I came in 2nd was January 2020, right before the pandemic began, when Sarah Munly of Portland’s Cheese Bar took home 1st place and Sam Rollins took home 5th. (And, just this week during the summer Cheesemonger Invitational in New York, yet another Pacific Northwesterner, Evey of New Seasons in Portland, took 5th place! In case you needed evidence we have some of the country’s finest cheesemongers in our region, I think we now have proof.)
Cutting a perfect quarter-pound cheese wedge on stage at CMI. Photo credit to Katie Currier.
In April, I traveled to Central Point, OR, to represent WASCA at the Oregon Cheese Festival. The two-day event was a whirlwind as 3,500 attendees lined up for cheese samples. There were fewer cheesemakers this year, which meant the demand for samples was higher on individual producers. Some of the Oregon cheesemakers sold out within the first day and didn’t return for the second. Volunteer Janee’ Muha and I did not sell cheese at the WASCA table, but we did sample three cheeses each from Cascadia Creamery (Trout Lake) and Toboton Creek Farm (Yelm). Attendees were excited about both creameries’ cheeses and wanted to know where they could find them locally—echoing conversations I keep having with retailers in Portland wanting to stock their cases with more of our excellent Washington cheeses.
WASCA Booth at Oregon Cheese Festival. Photo credit to Janee’ Muha.
In May, I took to the skies for a trip to Minneapolis, MN, to volunteer at the American Cheese Society’s Judging and Competition (J&C). I’ve long wanted to volunteer and see how a judging event takes place, but the pandemic foiled my previous attempts. Since I arrived with two J&C committee members who also came from Seattle, I had the unique opportunity to volunteer all five days: making signs, labeling speed racks, setting tables in the judging room for 15 teams of judges, unboxing and receiving some of the more than 1,350 cheeses submitted for 120 categories, acting as steward for two teams of judges as they spent two long days tasting, and finally, helping clean up after everything was done.
Cheese receiving at ACS J&C in Minneapolis. Photo credit to Courtney Johnson.
We spent five grueling, 10- to 12-hour days on our feet—but it wasn’t so bad being on a team of passionate cheese professionals—many of whom drove six to eight hours roundtrip for one volunteer shift. I met cheese shop owners from North and South Dakota, a cheesemaker from Colorado, a young dairy farmer from Iowa, and food science students learning at the University of Minnesota. I also got to know the committee members behind J&C, who are responsible for a truly amazing feat of logistics. And now I can’t wait to learn who the winners are when they are announced at the ACS Conference in Portland next month. I hope Washington sweeps every category into which our cheeses are entered. Fingers crossed!
Speaking of Portland, the ACS conference is finally taking place after two years as a virtual event. A strong contingent of Washingtonians is heading down to take the Rose City by force. Thanks to our USDA Farmers Market Promotion Program grant, WASCA is funding three cheesemakers’ tables at the Meet the Cheesemakers event on Friday, July 22. We also secured a WASCA table, where we will get to talk about the work our cheese guild does while showcasing two of our smaller creameries.
Indeed, it’s been wild returning to in-person events after the past two years. As I outline below, WASCA is trying its hand at the events written into our FMPP grant. It’s been slow-going, but important work to get something on the calendar. A refrain I hear time and again from our enthusiast members and from customers of my own cheese shop, is that they want more opportunities to interact with local cheesemakers.
We don’t know what the rest of 2022 has in store for us, but we can only hope for the best. Here’s to a warmer (but not fiery!) and drier summer, the true end of the pandemic, and strong sales for Washington Cheese despite the rising cost of food in general.
As always, please reach out if you have questions, need anything, or just want to say hello.
Courtney C Johnson, PhD, ACS CCP
Executive Director, Washington State Cheesemakers Association
Courtney.firstname.lastname@example.org / (520) 253-0291
Annual Meeting in January
Thank you to everyone who attended our virtual annual meeting in January. If you missed it, there is a recording online. The recording features a presentation about our FMPP grant program; the full slide show is also posted on our website’s Resources page.
Shiny, New Website
If you haven’t yet, please visit our website to check out the redesign! WASCA Business Member Dave Bain (Cheese and Meat Festival) helped with graphic design and getting the new site online. The site features a clean, interactive design, and room for growth. You can find a page of resources, upcoming events, cheesemaker classifieds, and a dedicated page for every member creamery, as well as our monthly member spotlights and FMPP grant program updates.
Cheese Maps and Stickers
Do you need more Washington Cheese Maps? How about rolls of Choose Washington Cheese stickers? We have plenty of maps to go around, and we are getting ready to order another batch of stickers. Please email WashingtonCheese@gmail.com to let us know how many you would like, and we’ll get them to you ASAP.
Call for Committee Volunteers
Now’s your chance to get involved! WASCA needs a committee chair for our Marketing Committee. We also need volunteers to join all of our committees: Marketing, Membership, Education and Regulation, and Grant Applications. (The Buying Committee is on temporary hiatus because of current market pressures preventing businesses from offering bulk-buying discounts.) However much time you are able give will go a long way toward making a difference for this organization! Just email WashingtonCheese@gmail.com to sign up today.
Objective 1 – Cheesemaker Education
In April, WSU Creamery offered the Pasteurization Workshop for the first time since the pandemic began. The workshop will be offered again next year, as will be the Basic Cheese Making Short Course and the Advanced Cheese Making Short Course. Stay tuned for details when the 2023 course schedule is revealed!
Bates Consulting is offering an online Good Manufacturing Procedures and Food Safety Training class on Monday, June 20. Registration is open; the cost to attend is $49 per person.
Bates Consulting is also offering an in-person Preventive Controls Qualified Individual (PCQI) Course at Appel Farms Cheese Shop in Ferndale, June 22 through 24. There is still time to sign up online with the discount code WASCA22 for reduced cost of registration.
Dairy Farmers of Washington will offer one online training to WASCA members this year. We have heard some interest in a webinar about HAACP plans, so they are working on developing something on that topic now. Is there something else you’d like to learn about? Please shoot an email to WashingtonCheese@gmail.com and let us know!
Objective 2 – Washington Cheese Month
We are currently signing up retailers to participate in events for Washington Cheese Month. A month has not yet been decided, but June is the contender. If you have a strong feeling about what month should be the official Washington Cheese Month, please let us know! And if you are a retailer or distributor, please fill out our very short Washington Cheese Month interest survey to help plan a successful inaugural Washington cheese advocacy month.
Objective 3 – Meet the Cheesemakers
Thanks to feedback many of you have provided, we recalibrated our idea of what a “Meet the Cheesemakers” event should look like. We are currently planning three in-person events this year, and they will all follow a similar format: a 90-minute talk about Washington cheese and cheesemaking, featuring a panel discussion with 3-5 cheesemakers and a guided tasting of some of their cheeses, followed by a 30-minute meet-and-greet with some sampling and cheese sales. In our grant proposal, we promised to hold one of these events in each of the following counties: King, Okanogan, Thurston, Skagit, Whatcom, and Yakima.
Stay tuned for an announcement of the dates for this year’s Meet the Cheesemakers events in October (King County), November (Thurston County), and December (Whatcom County).
We are happy to report our photographer, Janee’ Muha, has begun visiting creameries to take pictures and videos that creameries and WASCA can use for marketing promotions. If you are a cheesemaker who would like to take advantage of this opportunity (a $1,500 value), please reach out to WashingtonCheese@gmail.com and we will schedule your creamery visit.
Objective 4 – Retail Marketing Campaign
We currently have four retailers signed up to participate in next year’s retail marketing campaign focusing on Washington Cheeses. As mentioned above under Washington Cheese Month updates, we are still looking for more retailers to take part in promoting local cheeses.
For more information and frequent updates about our ongoing FMPP grant project, see the FMPP Grant Program Updates page on the WASCA website.
PCQI and GMP Trainings
Bates Consulting is offering two trainings for WASCA members this month. Registration for both courses is open until filled.
The Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) and Food Safety Training course takes place online on Monday, June 20, from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.; the course costs $49 per person and registration is available online.
The Preventive Controls Qualified Individual (PCQI) course is taking place in-person at Appel Farms Cheese Shop in Ferndale from June 22-24. The certification costs $695, or $335 for WASCA members using the discount code WASCA22. Registration is available online.
Washington Artisan Cheesemakers Festival
Vendor registration is now open for the Washington Artisan Cheesemakers Festival, which will take place in Seattle on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022. Please see the registration link for cheesemakers or the registration link for other vendors to sign up by July 1. WASCA is the non-profit sponsor of the festival, and we will also have an information table during the event.
Seattle Cheese + Meat Festival
Vendor registration is also open for the Seattle Cheese and Meat Festival. The festival will take place in Seattle on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022. This year they are paying you to be there! WASCA is the festival’s benefactor and we would love to see as many members there as possible. If you are interested in signing up to have a booth during the tasting sessions or to participate in a smaller educational seminar, please reach out to email@example.com.
Photo from Cheese + Meat Festival courtesy of Dave Bain.
ACS Code Red Series
Bill Wavrin of Ferndale Farmstead (Ferndale) is co-hosting “The Code Red Series” through the American Cheese Society. The series, which is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture podcast, focuses on the topics, “Dairy & Human Health,” “Dairy & Animal Welfare,” “Dairy & Water,” and “Dairy & Greenhouse Gas Emissions.”
The third installment—“Dairy & Water” (featuring Alan Rotz of the USDA Agricultural Research Service)—takes place online TODAY, June 15, at 3 p.m. You can still sign up to watch the talk through the ACS website. The cost is $10 to view one session or $25 to view all four sessions. The first two talks in the series were broadcast online and are available to all through the ACS website (after creating an account and signing in; membership not required). The fourth installment on “Dairy & Greenhouse Gas Emission” (featuring a panel discussion with Wavrin, Hammerich, Kurt Dammeier of Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, and Curt Gooch of Cornell University) will take place in-person at the ACS conference in Portland.
Good Food Awards
The Good Food Foundation is now accepting applications for the 2023 Good Food Awards. The application deadline is June 30. For more information, see the Good Food Foundation website.
World Dairy Expo Championship Dairy Product Contest
The Wisconsin Dairy Products Association is accepting entries into the 2022 World Dairy Expo’s Dairy Product Contest. Entries are due online by July 22.
USDA Organic and Transitional Education and Certification Program (OTECP)
Producers whose products are certified organic, or who are transitioning to certified organic, can receive financial assistance from the USDA toward certification-related expenses in 2022. This funding is part of the USDA’s Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative; applications are accepted until Oct. 31, 2022. For more information or to apply, see the OTECP website.
USDA Organic Certification Cost Share Program (OCCSP)
Producers who renew or obtain organic certification in 2022 may take part in OCCSP. The program provides up to 50 percent of certification costs during the program year. For more information, see the OCCSP website.
ACS, IDFA Launch Food Safety Resource
In an ongoing partnership, the American Cheese Society together with the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, International Dairy Foods Association, and university food safety experts across the country, just unveiled a new food safety map to help connect dairy producers of all kinds with food safety resources in their state or region. The map is available online; we have also added the map to the list of food safety resources on our website’s Resources page.
Congratulations, Scholarship Winners!
Virginia Thomas from Clover Mountain Dairy (Chewelah) received a full scholarship to attend her first American Cheese Society conference this summer in Portland! WASCA executive director Courtney Johnson also received a partial scholarship for the cost of conference fees.
Several WASCA Members Interviewed in Seattle Times Article
The article, “Cheese is a risky business, yet WA’s cheese-making scene is on the rise,” published online and in print by The Seattle Times on Mar. 11, 2022, features interviews with Bill and Daniel Wavrin of Ferndale Farmstead (Ferndale), Rachael Taylor-Tuller of Lost Peacock Creamery (Olympia), Virginia Thomas of Clover Mountain Dairy, Lindsay Slevin of Twin Sisters Creamery (Ferndale), and WASCA executive director Courtney Johnson.
WASCA Named Among Grantees
In the Nov. 26, 2021 issue of Cheese Reporter, WASCA was profiled as one of two cheese-related projects that received a 2021 grant award under one of the USDA’s three grant programs (Local Agricultural Marketing Program [LAMP], Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program [FMLFPP], and Regional Food System Partnerships [RFSP]). The article, which is available online only to Cheese Reporter subscribers, highlights the project objectives for which we received our Farmers Market Promotion Program grant funding.
Beecher’s Founder Profiled in Cheese Connoisseur
Kurt Beecher Dammeier, founder of Beecher’s Handmade Cheese (Seattle) was profiled in the cover article of Cheese Connoisseur’s March issue. The interview, titled, “A Cheese Calling,” was posted online on Mar. 22, 2022.
Beecher’s Wins sofi Award
An article in Cheese Reporter on May 13, 2022, gave a shout-out to Beecher’s Handmade Cheese for winning a 2022 sofi Award from the Specialty Food Association for Best New Product in the Fruits & Vegetables category for its Beecher’s Street Corn, a frozen side dish featuring Beecher’s Flagship cheese sauce over corn, peppers, lime, and Cotija. The article, “Specialty Food Association Announces Winners in 50th Annual sofi Awards,” is available online to subscribers of Cheese Reporter.
Beecher’s, Cascadia Creamery Named in Food & Wine Best Cheese Article
Beecher’s Handmade Cheese and Cascadia Creamery (Trout Lake) each received a nod in Food & Wine Magazine’s article, “The Best Cheese in America.” The article naming the magazine’s “Top 50 U.S. Cheesemakers,” appeared in-print and online on Dec. 14, 2021.
Cascadia Creamery Graces Two Magazine Covers
Cascadia Creamery made it into Culture Magazine twice this year. In the Spring 2022 “Innovation” issue, Glacier Blue was mentioned in the article, “Tune In, Chill Out, Glow Up: The Wellness Wave Hits Your Cheese Board.” The cheese appeared on that issue’s cover and on the cover of the January/February 2022 issue “Cheese Styles: The Ultimate Guide.”
Cherry Valley Dairy Interviewed on Podcast
Blain Hages of Cherry Valley Dairy (Duvall) was interviewed on The Mobile Monger podcast’s “The Butter Series,” which has also featured Vermont Creamery and Rodolphe Le Meunier. The interview posted on Feb. 4, 2022 is available online through any podcast hosting site.
WASCA Members Win Good Food Awards
Daniel’s Artisan (Ferndale) and WASCA Business Member Girl Meets Dirt (Eastsound) each brought home a 2022 Good Food Award. Daniels’ Artisan received the award in the North Region cheese category for Daniel’s Artisan Reserve. Girl Meets Dirt received the award in the North Region elixirs category for their Island Plum Shrub. Daniel’s Artisan was also a finalist for Fuego, and Cascadia Creamery was a finalist with Glacier Blue. The full lists of finalists and winners are available on the Good Food Foundation website.
Whatcom County Dairy Article Mentions Cheesemakers
The article, “Small batches, partnerships, and goats: family dairies evolve to survive,” published in the Salish Current on Dec. 3, 2021, focuses on Whatcom County dairy farms—yet it mentions Ferndale Farmstead and Twin Sisters Creamery for their role in turning local milk into cheese.
Lum Farm Featured for Holiday Fundraiser
Lum Farm (Eastsound) received a write-up in The Orcasonian titled, “Christmas Trees and ‘Winter Wooly Pop Up’ are Coming to Lum Farm” on Nov. 17, 2021, for their holiday events. The Christmas tree sale was a fundraiser benefiting the Orcas Island schools and the Orcas Island Community Resource Center Giving Tree. The Winter Wooly Pop-up was a community event featuring artisan vendors and a goat petting zoo.
Samish Bay Stars in Video
Samish Bay Cheese (Bow) was featured in a video series produced by the USDA to highlight winners of the bureau’s Value Added Producer Grant. The video, “Value Added Producer Grant: Samish Bay Cheese,” was posted on YouTube on Jan. 26, 2022.
WSU Creamery Lauded for Inspiring Students
In the latest issue of Cheese Connoisseur published in print and online on June 2, 2022, WSU Creamery received a cover-worthy write-up about its educational mission in an article titled, “Washington State University teaches a can-do attitude in its cheese program.”
WSU Cheesemaking Spotlighted in Student Paper
Cheese- and ice cream-making were the focus of interest of the article, “The Inside Scoop: WSU Creamery’s Production Process from Cow to Cone,” published in The Daily Evergreen on Mar. 25, 2022. The article provides a “day in the life” look at how WSU Creamery (Pullman) makes ice cream and Cougar Gold cheese. Creamery Manager and WASCA President John Haugen was interviewed for the story.
Code Red Series Announced in Cheese Reporter
In the Apr. 22, 2022 issue of Cheese Reporter, Bill Wavrin of Ferndale Farmstead and Kurt Beecher Dammeier of Beecher’s Handmade Cheese were named for their involvement in the American Cheese Society-supported seminar series on dairy and climate change, “The Code Red Series.” The article announcing the series, “ACS Launches ‘Code Red’ Webinar Series On Sustainable Cheesemaking” is available online to Cheese Reporter subscribers.
WASCA ED Interviewed on ACS Cheese Chat
Courtney Johnson, WASCA’s executive director, was invited to join American Cheese Society President Lynn Giacomini of Pt. Reyes Creamery (Pt. Reyes Station, CA) and Vice President Michael Koch of Firefly Farm (Accident, MD) on the March 18, 2022, episode of the ACS Cheese Chat about the Winter Cheesemonger Invitational (CMI). CMI founder Adam Moskowitz and Winter CMI 1st-place winner Sam Rollins (Cowbell Fine Cheese, Portland, OR) were also part of the episode. Courtney tied for 2nd place with Mary Florer-Tolan of Venissimo Cheese North Park (San Diego, CA) at this year’s Winter CMI .
WASCA is proud to have the support of our corporate sponsors: