Educational Opportunities

Food Safety Basics for Artisan Cheesemakers / Ongoing

By Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy

Online self-paced courses on Good Manufacturing Practices and How to Identify Hazards & Risks For Beginners. Offered to Washington Cheesemakers by Washington Dairy Farmers as an in-kind match for our USDA Farmers Market Promotion Program grant award.

Registration open now.  / $49; free to WASCA members with code

Vat Pasteurizer Workshop / Ongoing

By Cornell College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

The course consists entirely of online self-paced content and is for individuals who have responsibility for operating the vat pasteurizer or for those thinking of starting a new small-scale business. The key components of vat pasteurization include the importance of pasteurization, pasteurizer construction, thermometer requirements, chart recorders, raw milk quality, and pasteurizer cleaning and maintenance. This course has rolling admission. You may begin the course once your registration and payment are confirmed. Participants have 4 weeks to complete the course, either at home or at their facility. Registrations are accepted at any time.

Pacific Coast Coalition-Dairy Business Innovation Initiation Grant Drop-In Office Hours / January 19, 2024 and February 8, 2024


The Pacific Coast Coalition-Dairy Business Innovation Initiation (PCC-DBII) has been officially awarded another U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) grant for just over $1.8 million, with nearly $1 million available for dairy business grants. This represents the fourth such award under the Dairy Business Innovation Initiatives (DBI) grant program. A PCC delegation was on hand at the World Dairy Expo in Madison, WI as USDA Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs, Jenny Lester Moffitt, announced $23 million in awards to support dairy businesses and producers nationwide. These initiatives support small and mid-sized dairy businesses in the development, production, marketing, and distribution of dairy products.

Dairy farmers and processors in California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, New Mexico and Arizona will be eligible to propose projects for funding to aid in dairy product development, production, marketing and distribution from January 2, 2024 through February 29, 2024.

Online resources to aid such efforts include: an Office Hours webinar (passcode: 05hH+nCr), FAQs, and “Office Hours” for drop-in questions via Zoom from 4 to 5pm PST. on Friday, Jan. 19 and Thursday, Feb. 8.

“This new funding award from the USDA allows us to continue the direct-to-dairy processing business grant program as well as build capacity in university creamery pilot plants in support of industry new product development and current/future employee training,” said Dr. Carmen Licon Cano, PCC-DBII project director and director of the Dairy Products Technology Center at Cal Poly SLO. “This brings the total dairy processing related grants to over $25.3 million in the past three years.”

The PCC-DBII is funded by an initial $1.8 million grant in November 2021, a $19 million follow-up grant announced in July 2022 via CARES Act Pandemic Recovery, a $1.7 million grant in October 2022, and a $1.8 million grant in October 2023. “Cowkeeper” and co-project director, Dr. Susan Pheasant, shares that portions of the funding will specifically go to Cal Poly – SLO, California Dairy Innovation Center, Oregon State University, and Washington State University to support the upskilling of workers, prepare students to enter the dairy processing workforce, hosting of a conference for university creamery managers, and increasing materials on the eLearning HUBoffering open access educational materials and trainings.

Fresno State hosts the collaboration with eight other Western universities and the California Dairy Innovation Center. The program will also offer over hundreds of hours of industry training to foster innovation and best practices, often in bilingual forms for Spanish-speaking workers and entrepreneurs.

ONLINE APPLICATION (open January 2 – February 29, 2024):

Drop in online. / Free

Business MiniVersity / January 29 – March 6, 2024

By Vermont Cheese Council

This is like an “intro to managing or running a business” course.  We hit on leadership, hiring, management, finance and margins, strategy, and marketing topics.  Sessions are designed for you to walk away with helpful/actionable information about how to run/manage a team or business with more know-how. Group size is small and personal for this – you’ll be able to have conversation and Q/A with presenters and other attendees in every session.

Suitable for new (or up and coming) business owners/managers and/or those who have run/managed businesses for a while – but never had training in these areas. Content/format is designed to help any cheese producers, value-added food producers, and specialty food retail/other business managers/owners in particular. Our attendees have included both business owners and managers/team managers.  Some organizations have used it to help train existing or onboard new leaders/managers on their team, while others have attended prior to/to prepare to launch their own new businesses.  Although we have many speakers from Vermont, presenters will share information applicable to those outside of the state.

All sessions are via zoom/virtual – open to attendees from any location.  Every session will be recorded and available for watching later, in case you have to miss sessions for any reason. Sessions are scheduled on Mondays and Wednesdays from 12:00 – 1:30 PM ET over 6 weeks, January 29 – March 6, 2024.

Online. / Registration open now / $100

Winter Artisan Cheesemakers Conference / February 15-16, 2024

By Vermont Cheese Council

This two-day virtual/online 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. While our 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.

PRESENTATIONS WILL BE RECORDED AND AVAILABLE TO WATCH AT LEAST THROUGH THE END OF MARCH – in case you need to step away to milk, make cheese, deliver cheese, etc.

Online / Register Now / $65-$110

2024 AgrAbility National Training Workshop / March 25-28, 2024 / Atlanta, Georgia

By AgrAbility

The AgrAbility National Training Workshop is the premier training event addressing issues of disability in agriculture. Professionals and consumers from all over the country participate in four days of plenary sessions, breakouts, tours, networking, and special events. Registration is open, and farmer stipend applications are also available now.

Grand Hyatt Atlanta/Buckhead in Atlanta, GA / $200-$525

Grants & Funding Opportunities
Business Resources
  • USDA REAP Grant Award Program : Rural Energy for America Program Renewable Energy Systems & Energy Efficiency Improvement Guaranteed Loans & Grants
  • Local and Regional Food Systems Response to COVID : Webinar series on business topics relevant local food producers and organizations
  • Edible Alpha : Financial training and resources for making money in food.

  • NWIRC Northwest Innovation Resource Center : The NWIRC is a strategic partner for innovators – entrepreneurs and inventors – to help bring their ideas to life.

  • NABC Northwest Agriculture Business Center : NABC helps farmers establish new enterprises, and helps make existing businesses more profitable, by providing business feasibility, planning and implementation guidance, connections to markets and capital, and access to resources.

  • Economic Development Alliance of Skagit County: The Economic Development Alliance of Skagit County carries out business attraction, retention and expansion and collaborative engagement to achieve a prosperous, sustainable and equitable community while maintaining Skagit County’s natural beauty and quality of life.
  • Small Business Administration/ SCORE mentorships : The SBA helps Americans start, build and grow businesses. SCORE volunteers work with the SBA to provide small business mentoring and training to entrepreneurs through SBA offices.

  • Specialty Food Association Learning Center: The SFA is a membership-based trade association founded in 1952 and currently representing 3,500+ businesses. The SFA vision is to “Shape the Future of Food.” Our members are specialty food artisans, purveyors, importers and entrepreneurs, as well as distributors, retailers, and others involved in the specialty food trade.

Farming Resources
Cheesemaking Resources
Nutrition Resources
Past Presentations

Nathan Stacey, “Popular Farming Concepts and their Link to Dairies.” Presented at WASCA Annual Member Meeting. January 21, 2022.

Courtney C. Johnson, “Introduction to Our 2021 USDA Farmers Market Promotion Program Grant Award.” Presented at WASCA Annual Member Meeting. January 21, 2022.

Daniel Wing. “Educational Webinar on Food Safety and Testing for the Washington State Cheesemakers Association.” Presented in an online webinar. September 20, 2021.

Gigi Berardi, “Washington Cheese Challenges and Opportunities in Making and Selling Sustainable and Delicious Cheese. FoodWise Stories and Science: Cultivating Customers.” Presented at WASCA Annual Member Meeting. January 29, 2021.

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