Note to readers, attached is the complete final report for FNE97-178
Mrs. Major makes cheese from the milk of her own sheep, which she sells under the label “Vermont Shepherd.” She has found a healthy demand for her product, and would like to expand production to meet it. Rather than investing to increase her own production, however, and incurring the headaches that would go along with managing a larger operation, she preferred to create a consortium of sheep dairies, each producing its own cheese to a common standard, but curing and marketing their product collectively.
In 1996 Mrs. Major recruited four farmers, and put them through an apprenticeship cheese-making program at her farm. She wished to continue and expand the program in 1997, with the involvement of more technical expertise, and applied for a SARE grant to help her do so. Mrs. Major recruited various experts in sheep, pasturing, and cheese-making and marketing. These experts made frequent visits to the participating farms, providing instruction and advice on sanitation, record-keeping, equipment, technique, quality control, and other subjects. They conducted taste tests, took samples for laboratory analysis, gave feedback, and discussed various untoward problems as they arose. While this was going on, Mrs. Major and her associates compiled a resource list for would-be cheese makers, and wrote a guide, which they copyrighted, entitled “The Joy of Cheese-Making.” The project ended with a workshop for other interested sheep farmers.