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Adding Value with a Cheesemaking Class

The current dairy market has many farmers looking for ways to supplement milk sales. Converting some of that milk production to value-added products like cheese, ice cream, butter or bottled milk can be a way to enhance income and improve business stability. To improve my own knowledge of making value-added products and provide additional services to producer clients, I decided to start with an intensive course on cheese-making.

Cheesemaking is the most difficult process to learn successfully and is potentially the most expensive from an equipment standpoint. Increasing my understanding of the process of making cheese is a valuable complement to my experiences producing quality milk and in business management and will benefit producer clients considering cheese making as a supplemental business.

The Class I Chose and Why

The course was “Introduction to Cheesemaking: From Milk to Make to Market” and was offered by Westminster Artisan Cheesemaking in south-eastern Vermont. The instructor, Peter Dixon, owns Parish Hill Creamery along with his partner Rachael Schaal, and is a practicing artisan cheese maker.

Peter has worked in the cheese business his entire career. He grew up on a dairy farm that converted milk into cheese for sale. Since then, he has worked for several dairy businesses as a cheesemaker, has traveled and read extensively about artisan cheesemaking and has consulted for many dairy farms that have established cheesemaking businesses. Peter has a solid science background and has conducted extensive practical research on the effects of season on quality of cheese. His experiences and practical knowledge are second to very few people on converting milk to cheese and making a sustainable living through this knowledge.

What Did I Learn?

A lot! This was a 7-day immersion course where we learned to make cheeses with varying characteristics and make requirements. Intensive lectures provided instructions and insights into many aspects of the cheesemaking process:

  • milk composition and effect of seasonality
  • protein to fat ratio and impact on cheese quality
  • milk bacteriology
  • starter cultures & rennet
  • principles of cheesemaking and tests for measuring quality of the process and end product
  • good manufacturing practices
  • regulations, sanitation and food safety
  • aging process
  • business planning

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Dr. Sandy Costello

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