TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. Letter from the Executive Director
3. WASCA Business
4. FMPP Grant Updates
5. Members in the News
LETTER FROM THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
Dear WASCA members and cheese lovers,
Welcome to our autumn newsletter! Although the early December snow falling as I write underlines that we had very little fall at all, there are still a few days left before the year’s shortest day makes winter official. Right now we are also smack in the middle of the busiest time of the cheese year—the holiday season. We made it past Thanksgiving—hopefully with cheese on everyone’s table—and we are staring Chanukkah, Christmas, and New Year’s dead-on.
Snow in Federal Way, fall 2022
Despite the low-level stress that often accompanies tasks during this time of year, this is a time of joy, celebration, and reflection. We have much to be thankful for in the cheese world: industry data shows that cheese sales are holding relatively firm despite the factors that have been pushing inflation along. National cheese sales are down just slightly from last year—but still up from pre-pandemic levels.
Now, during cheese’s time to shine, folks are maintaining their interest in locally made goods as they plan end-of-year gift-giving and entertaining—a welcome boon for those of us singing the praises of Washington cheese. Just the other day at a pop-up event for my own shop, Street Cheese, a customer browsing our selection of wedges said he would prefer any local options we had. He cast aside the Belgian Gouda and snatched up the Washington-made wedge, pulling in a Cheddar made nearby and a tub of local chèvre to round out the selection.
I am heartened by small encounters such as that, as well as seeing folks order Choose Washington Cheese stickers to grace their retail wedges and asking for more cheese maps to place in public locations. Although the urgency of the “Support Our Cheesemakers” movement that sprung up in early 2020 has dissipated, the importance of local cheese is still top of mind for many. In our dear community of folks spread far and wide, we care about Washington’s cheesemakers and we celebrate them all year.
This newsletter is filled with announcements and opportunities. Among them, I am curious to see who is interested in the Cheesemaker Chats series and Cheesemaker Happy Hour meet-ups being planned in the new year. We also have a strong selection of educational opportunities planned for cheesemakers in 2023 that I hope many will take advantage of.
Thank you to everyone who has been a part of our little cheese guild this year and in years past. I am grateful for your support of our cheesemakers, and I look forward to engaging in community with you over the next year. Good luck to everyone making, shipping, and selling cheese this month. You’ve got this!
Cheers to cheese,
Courtney C. Johnson, PhD, ACS CCP, CCSE
Executive Director, Washington State Cheesemakers Association
Apply TODAY to Attend Good Food Connections Conference
Good Food Connections is inviting Washington farmers, fishers, food and beverage artisans, and chefs with an interest in selling in the Puget Sound market to apply to present their products during a farm-and-sea-to-table trade conference that is intended to unite producers, buyers, and community food stakeholders around a common table. The conference, which is being funded through a partnership with the Tilth Alliance and support from the King Conservation District, will be held in-person in early 2023. For more information, please see the online application or reach out to Mariah DeLeo at email@example.com. The deadline to apply is December 12 (the date of this newsletter’s mailing transmission), and applicants will be notified of their application status by December 19.
Eat Local First Holiday Campaign Kicks Off
If you have a listing on the Eat Local First website (WA Food & Farm Finder), make sure it is up to date! Now through December 31, Eat Local First is running a campaign to encourage folks to visit the Holiday Food and Farm Finder for a shopping list of farm-fresh foods, holiday must-haves, places to find locally grown holiday trees, wreaths and seasonal décor, and additional resources for a happy, locally sourced season of feasting and gift giving. The campaign is also giving away over $1,500 worth of local, farm-fresh gifts to WA state residents; the giveaway items have been curated from local farms, markets, and restaurants. (The deadline to enter is midnight on January 1, 2023. Winners will be notified in early January.)
Save the Date: Cheesemaker Education Day
The Oregon Cheese Guild’s Cheesemaker Education Day returns January 28, 2023, from 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. at the LaSells Steward Center on the Oregon State University campus in Corvallis, OR. Tickets will go on sale soon and will be affordably priced to simply cover food costs. Some of the topics on this year’s agenda include:
- The State of Sales: a panel of retailers and distributors share the latest trends in consumer buying habits, popular products, packaging, and more
- What you need to know about the new Food Traceability Rule
- Developing a Cheesemonger Engagement Strategy
- Hot Topics Quickfire with our legal team at Davis Wright Tremaine
- Changing purchase behaviors of PNW cheese core consumers (results from the Guild’s latest round of research)
- Updates from OSU on the new pilot plant and the Online Cheese Industry Certification program
- OSU grad student research speed round (back by popular demand)
- Regulatory update
- And of course a cheese reception to finish the day and spend some time with your friends and colleagues.
More information will be posted on the Oregon Cheese Guild website soon.
Vermont Cheese Council Announces 2023 Winter Conference
The Vermont Cheese Council is excited to announce the 2023 Winter Artisan Cheesemakers Conference. This online event, which is being expanded in 2023 to a two-day event, is designed to provide exposure to new ideas and educational experiences for artisan cheesemakers – to help them advance their cheesemaking and business practices, as well as our industry as a whole. The topic of the 2023 conference is, “Advancing the practice and business of artisan cheesemaking.” While the content focuses on information to support professional cheesemakers, attendance is open to all, including other cheese industry professionals, amateur cheesemakers, the general public, and anyone who wants to dive more deeply into the world of cheese.
The conference will be held February 16-17, 2023. Early-bird rate tickets are for sale online now through the end of December; current WASCA members will also receive an email shortly with a special guild-member discount for the cost of admission. For more information or to register for the conference, please visit the ticketing site and the Vermont Cheese Council website.
Sustainable Farming Fund Accepting Applications
The Tilth Alliance is inviting Washington farmers to apply for financial assistance to, “support projects that will improve the economic viability, social impacts, or environmental sustainability of their farm businesses and/or community. The goal of these grants is to enhance the operations of farmers practicing responsible and progressive methods such as sustainable soil management, crop diversification, habitat preservation, climate change mitigation and environmentally-safe waste management practices.” To learn more, please visit the fund’s website. Applications are due by February 19, 2023.
ACS Judging Application Period Approaches
Don’t forget that the American Cheese Society will begin taking entries for its 2023 Judging & Competition starting January 15, 2023. ACS will accept entry applications through February 28. Cheese submissions will be due in Minneapolis, MN, May 15-17, and winners will be announced during the ACS Annual Conference in Des Moines, IA, July 18-21. For more information, visit the ACS J&C website.
American Dairy Science Conference: ACS Member Opportunity
If you are a member of the American Cheese Society, you can receive $100 off the cost of registration to attend the American Dairy Science Association’s Discover Conference being held March 7-9, 2023. The topic of this year’s conference is, “Why Cheese From Milk?” and it is being put on in collaboration with ACS. The conference format is intended to create an intimate and interactive setting encouraging collaboration and networking related to the conference topics; it is an ideal event for cheesemakers, dairy farmers, cheese retailers, allied organizations, as well as university and industry scientists to meet, learn and grow through interdisciplinary sharing. To learn more, visit the ADSA website. To receive the ACS member discount, register as a “non-member” and enter the discount code KZM7GDNE94.
Washington Cheesemakers Invited to San Diego Cheese Expo
Washington cheesemakers are invited to participate in the 2023 Liquid City Cheese Expo Weekend in San Diego, CA. Cheese Expo Weekend is a two-day event that will take place on April 29-30, 2023. Cheesemakers are welcome to participate in either or both of the two events:
- Saturday, April 29: Maker’s Night at AleSmith Brewing. Trade show, networking event, and welcome party. Makers will showcase for local buyers, retailers, restaurant groups, educators, media, etc. They expect 350-400 cheese and food professionals to attend.
- Sunday, April 30: Cheese Expo at Brick Liberty Station. Ticketed event for consumers. There will be around 1,000 attendees over two sessions. Cheesemakers will be partnered up with chefs, restaurants and/or liquid companies for fun pairings and collabs.
The sign up form is available here; tickets are also available online. For questions about the event, please reach out directly to Rob Graff, a cheesemonger at Venissimo Cheese and one of the producers behind Liquid City, a company that was created to produce large events with the goal of advancing the artisan cheese industry in Southern California: firstname.lastname@example.org, 858-431-6731.
FDA Announces Final Rule on FSMA Food Traceability Requirements
On November 17, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced its final rule on the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Food Traceability Requirements. The final rule includes the proposed record-keeping requirements for which the FDA sought comment last fall. The compliance deadline for producers to meet the new requirements is January 20, 2026. Cheese and dairy products are included in the list of foods for which additional traceability records will now be required; there are some exemptions for small producers. To learn more, please view the FDA announcement.
International Trade Opportunities for Cheesemakers
If you are a cheesemaker who is interested in exploring international markets for your cheese, the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) has an International Marketing Program that can assist and connect you with foreign buyers. (For example, a Pacific Northwest cheese and wine trade mission is being planned to British Columbia in the early summer of 2023.) To learn more, feel free to reach out directly to Julie Johnson at email@example.com.
Additionally, the Small Business Administration Seattle District Office is hosting a webinar, “Are You Ready to Export?” on Wednesday, December 28, from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. The registration link is available here.
University of Iowa Seeks Creamery Manager
If you know of anyone looking for a cheesemaking job in the Midwest, please share with them this job posting sent to us by Washington State University Creamery (Pullman) alumna Stephanie Clark, director of the Iowa State University Creamery:
“The ISU Creamery is seeking a Production Specialist to oversee dairy products processing in the micro-creamery. This is a hands-on position with supervisory and administrative duties and responsibilities. The successful candidate will lead a productive, dynamic team of student staff in a vibrant educational environment. The candidate in this position must be able to lift 50 pounds with or without accommodation. This position offers a good work-life balance, with a typical Monday-Friday, 8am -5pm work week and minimal after-hours obligations. This is a 3-year term position with potential for renewal.” Position details are available online on the ISU jobs website.
Save the Date: Annual Member Meeting in January
Mark your calendar: WASCA’s Annual Member Meeting will be held on Friday, January 27, 2023, from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. The location and full meeting details will be released soon.
Third-Party Audits Panel: Interest?
The Education & Regulation Committee has been asked to gauge interest in a possible training and/or panel discussion on the importance of third-party audits for creameries of all sizes, and what those audits entail. If a training or panel discussion would be of interest, please let us know at WashingtonCheese@gmail.com.
Cheesemaker Chats & Happy Hour: Coming Soon / Survey
The Education & Regulation Committee is currently working on setting up some Zoom chats with prominent cheesemakers and affineurs from around the world. Several cheesemakers have also expressed interest in having regular “cheesemaker happy hour” zoom sessions over which to connect with one another and find community. If you are interested in either or both of these opportunities, please fill out this quick survey to let us know what day of the week and time of day would make it easiest for you to attend.
Farm Bill Comments: Last Call for Member Response
The US House Agriculture Committee is currently soliciting comments in preparation for the 2023 Farm Bill. You are welcome to submit your own comments through the online form. WASCA’s Education & Regulation Committee is also preparing comments to submit on behalf of our membership; if you would like to provide feedback for the committee to share through the House Agriculture Committee’s comment form and in a letter to Washington State legislators, please fill out this survey.
Committee Members Needed
We are in desperate need of volunteers to help keep all our committees alive. We have five committees that keep things running for WASCA: Membership, Marketing, Education & Regulations, Grant Applications, and Bulk Buying. If you are interested in joining a committee or have questions about what committee membership might entail, please reach out to WashingtonCheese@gmail.com.
USDA FMPP GRANT UPDATES
Announcing Washington Cheese Month!
The cheesemakers have spoken: June will be the official Washington Cheese Month!
Starting in 2023, Washington Cheese Month will mark an official month dedicated to all things Washington Cheese. To start out, that will include retail marketing campaigns with regional retailers, consumer-facing community events, and an advertising campaign. The goal of Washington Cheese Month will be to celebrate our state’s cheesemakers and their cheeses among the growing community of local cheese lovers. This month of advocacy will also serve as a launching point to spread the word to more people about our wonderful Washington cheeses. Stay tuned for more information about Washington Cheese Month as we move into next spring – and please reach out to WashingtonCheese@gmail.com if you would like to get involved any of the accompanying initiatives!
First Meet the Cheesemakers Events Successful
Thank you to everyone who participated in and attended the Thurston County and Whatcom County Meet the Cheesemakers events. The Thurston County event was held on Saturday, September 24, at the Olympia Center in Olympia; the Whatcom County event was held on Saturday, December 10, at Bellewood Farms & Distillery in Lynden. Each event featured a 90-minute seminar including a guided tasting of cheeses, a Q&A session with cheesemakers, and a talk about cheesemaking and Washington cheeses. There was also a meet-and-greet session following the seminar. Tickets were $20 each and covered the costs associated with putting on each event that were not paid by our USDA Farmers Market Promotion Program grant award.
Matthew Tuller (Lost Peacock Creamery), Lynda Kofford-diCicco (Toboton Creek Farm), and Geoff Hartman (Mountain Lodge Farm) at Thurston County Meet the Cheesemakers
At the Thurston County event, 25 cheese lovers came out to learn more about Lost Peacock Creamery (Olympia), Mountain Lodge Farm (Eatonville), and Toboton Creek Farm (Yelm). At the Whatcom County event, 22 cheese lovers attended and interacted with Acme Farms Cheese (Acme), Appel Farms (Ferndale), Ferndale Farmstead (Ferndale), and Twin Sisters Creamery (Ferndale). The next events in this series will take place later in 2023. Proposed locations for those events include Skagit, Okanogan, and Yakima counties. (Images courtesy of Courtney Johnson.)
Daniel Wavrin (Ferndale Farmstead), Eric Hanko (Appel Farms), Mick Burnett (Acme Farms Cheese), and Lindsay Slevin (Twin Sisters Creamery) at Whatcom County Meet the Cheesemakers
Cheese & Meat Festivals Hit Seattle, Portland
Seattle saw its first and only cheese festival on October 8 with this year’s Cheese & Meat Festival. The festival also took place in Portland for the first time ever on November 12. Funds from our FMPP grant award made it possible for eight cheesemakers to be represented at the Seattle festival, and for three cheesemakers to be represented at the Portland festival. In total, 11 Washington creameries were represented in Seattle, while 6 creameries were represented in Portland. Grant funds also helped pay a cheesemonger to be present at both festivals to represent cheesemakers who were unable to attend due to staffing issues. (Image courtesy of Courtney Johnson.)
The Washington Cheese table at the Seattle Cheese & Meat Festival
Education Opportunities for 2023
There are several grant-supporting educational opportunities on the books for 2023:
- The Dairy Farmers of Washington, together with the Center for U.S. Dairy, have put together a free training, “Food Safety Basics for Artisan Cheesemakers,” that is available for all Washington cheesemakers to complete on a self-guided basis. The training is included within a deck of resources DFW asked the Center to put together specifically for Washington. The food safety training is made up of five lessons that are meant to help cheesemakers with HACCP and regulatory practices. To access the course for free, be sure to use the code IC-FREE when registering for the course. The link to register for the course is provided on page 3 of the resource document, which is available through the WASCA website’s Resources page under both “Educational Opportunities” and “Food Safety Resources.”
- Bates Consulting will offer a second PCQI training class toward the southern end of the I5 corridor in early February. If you are interested in attending this in-person training, which will be offered to WASCA members at a deep discount—or if you would like to request an alternative location or time for the class—please send an email to WashingtonCheese@gmail.com ASAP to let us know so that we can get it on the calendar. (Bates offered a similar PCQI course in Ferndale in June of this year.)
- Washington State University Creamery will be offering two courses for cheesemakers in early 2023: The 35th Advanced Cheese Making Short Course (March 7-9) and the Pasteurization Workshop (April 25-27). Registration is now open for both courses! The registration page for the Cheese Making Short Course is here and the registration page for the Pasteurization Workshop is here.
MEMBERS IN THE NEWS
WSDA Infrastructure Grants Awarded
Congratulations to all our members who received Washington State Department of Agriculture Infrastructure Grant awards this year! Grants were awarded to the following:
- Conway Family Farms (Camas)
- Chimacum Valley Dairy (Chimacum)
- Evergreen Creamery (Trout Lake)
- Lum Farm (Eastsound)
- Samish Bay Cheese (Bow)
- Girl Meets Dirt (Eastsound)
- Puget Sound Food Hub (Mt. Vernon)
Virginia and Stacy Thomas of Clover Mountain Dairy also received a grant for the Eastern Washington Community Dairy project they are spearheading. To learn more about the grant and see the full list of recipients, visit the WSDA website.
Wedding Bells in Trout Lake
WASCA Board of Directors Member Lucas King of Evergreen Creamery (Trout Lake) married his wife, Robyn, on September 24. Congratulations, Lucas and Robyn!
Clover Mountain Named Farmer of the Year
During the Tilth Alliance Conference in November, Clover Mountain Dairy (Chewelah) received the Farmer of the Year award for 2022. Owners Virginia and Stacy Thomas, who also gave a presentation during the conference, were given the award because of their efforts to re-establish small dairy farming in their area by helping to launch a new non-profit creamery to bottle milk. Congratulations, Clover Mountain Dairy! (Image courtesy of Clover Mountain Dairy.)
Clover Mountain Dairy’s Farmer of the Year Award
Beecher’s Wins at World Cheese Awards
Beecher’s Handmade Cheese (Seattle) received two awards at the World Cheese Awards in Wales in November. The creamery received a silver medal for Flagsheep and bronze for Flagship Reserve. Beechers’ award was written up in industry newspaper, Cheese Reporter, in the November 4 issue.
Cascadia Creamery Profiled in Wine Magazine
Cascadia Creamery was the subject of a profile titled, “Cave-Aged Wonders at Cascadia Creamery,” published in Washington Tasting Room Magazine on June 30.
Cascadia Creamery Subject of Short Video
Cascadia Creamery was the subject of a video created by Oregon retailer Market of Choice to accompany a short blurb about the creamery on the store’s website. The video was posted on September 13. (Image credit to Market of Choice.)
The cover to the video about Cascadia Creamery
Harmony Fields Featured on TV
WASCA Board of Directors Member Jessica Gigot of Harmony Fields (Bow) was interviewed on the New Day NW morning tv show on October 12. Jessica, who has been promoting her new memoir, “A Little Bit of Land,” spoke about her book and about agriculture in the Skagit Valley. (Image courtesy of Jessica Gigot.)
Jessica Gigot (left) with Amity Addrisi on the set of New Day NW
Lost Peacock Creamery Cast in Commercial
The family behind Lost Peacock Creamery (Olympia) stars in a video produced by Danner Boots on September 8. The video focuses on Rachael Taylor-Tuller’s journey to farming as a veteran, as well as her family’s experience with nature. (Image credit to Danner Boots.)
Cover of Danner Boots video
WSU Creamery’s Holiday Trend Detailed in Article
The strength of WSU Creamery’s signature cheese, Cougar Gold, was detailed in an article titled, “The Cougar Gold Rush is on: The Holiday Season Means Booming Business for WSU Creamery and its Signature Cheese in a Can,” published by The Spokesman Review on November 1.
Cheese & Meat Festival Covered in News Magazine
WASCA business member Cheese and Meat Festival’s Seattle festival was covered in online news magazine “Daily Hive” in a July 6 article titled, “’Deliciously Indulgent’ Cheese & Meat Festival Returns to Seattle This Fall.”
Metropolitan Market Opening New Store Soon
WASCA corporate sponsor Metropolitan Market (greater Seattle area) was the subject of an October 25 article on business news website Bizjournals.com, titled, “Metropolitan Market Installing Signs for New Ballard Store.” The retailer has not announced a concrete date for opening the new store, but the article points to signs that the location will be open sometime in 2023.
Rind and Wheat Rolls Out Second Location
WASCA business member Rind and Wheat (Spokane) opened a second location in May. The advent was covered in a May 25 article in The Spokesman Review titled, “Savoring a New Morsel: Rind and Wheat Owner Ricky Webster Opens New Shop for Breakfast and Lunch Takeout in the Former Fery’s Catering.”
Willapa Bay Heritage Farm Lauded by RVers
WASCA business member Willapa Bay Heritage Farm was named a top location to stay in Western Washington by blog HarvestHosts.com. The shout-out was published in a June 17 post titled, “Visiting Western Washington in Your RV.”
Zupan’s Markets Collaborates with Japanese Studies Center
WASCA business member Zupan’s Markets partnered with Portland State University on a lecture series called Kanpai Japan: Japanese Food Culture throughout the month of October. The series received a write-up in the Portland website PDX Food Press in an October 5 post titled, “Zupan’s Markets Collaborates with PSU’s Center for Japanese Studies on Culinary Event Series.”
WASCA Ed Nets New Certification
WASCA’s Executive Director, Courtney Johnson, passed the American Cheese Society’s Certified Cheese Sensory Evaluator exam, which she took during the ACS conference in July. Now the ACS Certified Cheese Professional (CCP) adds the letters “ACS CCSE” to proclaim the new designation in the alphabet soup following her name.