Maine cheese makers won ten awards at the 2015 American Cheese Society Judging and Competition announced at this year’s ACS Conference in Providence, RI. The ACS cheese competition is the largest competition in North America and includes entries from the US, Canada, and beyond.
From among 267 companies submitting 1,779 entries seven Maine cheese makers won ten awards including four 1st place ribbons, four 2nd place, and two 3rd place ribbons. This is the most ribbons that Maine cheese makers have collected at a ACS competition since 2007 and it reflects the number of Maine cheese makers who could arrange to get their cheeses to the conference being held only a few hours drive from our cheese rooms.
First time competitors such Barred Owl Creamery in Whitefield, and Tide Mill Creamery in Edmunds won awards, as well as long time cheese makers like Appleton Creamery and York Hill Farm who have each won multiple ACS awards in past competitions.
Following are a list of the awards listed alphabetically by creamery name:
—1st Place in Marinated Goat Cheese for Chevre In Olive Oil
Barred Owl Creamery
—1st Place in Sheep or Mixed Milk Feta for Organic Feta
—2nd Place in Farmstead Cheese With Flavor Added for Hot Pepper Jelly Chevre
Fuzzy Udder Creamery
—2nd Place in Sheep or Mixed Milk Plain Yogurt for Sheep Milk Yogurt
Swallowtail Farm and Creamery
—2nd Place in Cows Milk Ricotta for Ricotta Salata
—2nd Place in Yogurt With Flavor Added for Caramel Sea Salt Greek Style Yogurt
—3rd Place in Cows Milk Plain Yogurt for Original Cream Top Jersey Cow Milk Yogurt
Tide Mill Creamery
—1st Place in Sheep or Mixed Milk Soft Ripened Cheeses for Little Bloom
Winter Hill Farm
—3rd Place in Farmstead Aged Less Than 60 Days for Tide Line
York Hill Farm
—1st Place in Goats Milk Soft Ripened Cheeses for Ripened Chevre Roll With Ash
Friday began with an early morning meeting among the different Cheese Guilds to talk about the work that the Guilds do and where the Guilds and ACS can help each other. I was very disappointed with the discussion last year and had heard that this year the ACS Board had identified that defining and strengthening the connection between the regional Guilds and the national organization was a priority. One of the newest members on the Board (Vern Caldwell from the Oregon Cheese Guild) had tasked himself the job of coordinating this effort.
After introductions (in which there were quite a few announcements of brand new or fairly new Guilds being formed in Washington State, the Rocky Mountains, and Pennsylvania) ACS Executive Director Nora Weiser explained that ACS wanted to be careful not to overreach in their relationship with the Guilds to make sure the Guilds did not feel manipulated by ACS. Unfortunately she could stay for only 30 minutes of the long-scheduled one hour meeting in which many of the Guilds asked for MORE collaboration with ACS, especially in a way that would help justify the $199 annual individual membership cost for cheese makers in the Guilds.
And we’re off!
Following a warm walk up to the convention center we sat down to a Vermont Pancake Breakfast (sponsored by the VT Cheese Council) with made to order pancakes and VT maple syrup “shots” on the table. We sat with a pair of guys from The Loan Grazer Creamery in Minneapolis, MF (yes! right in the City) and talked string cheese.
The keynote speaker for the conference was Mark Canlis is a Seattle restaurateur who is NOT a cheese maker (one of the first points he made) but who wanted us to step back from the “rules” of food and cheese making and take a look at the concept and history of “hospitality.” Canlis believes passionately that he is in the business of relationships and trust and that it’s important for all of us to ask us AND our employees “Who are you becoming?” and “Who do you want to become?” And it’s only through this kind of awareness of our true goals that we can succeed in business and in life. In the midst of his talk he staged a Rock-Paper-Scissors tournament that illustrated the power of support and positive belief in Others (which ties into the history of Hospitality) for both you that other person.
It’s arrival day at the 32nd annual American Cheese Society Conference, this year back on the East Coast in Providence, RI. The current mayor, Jorge o. Elorza welcomed us to “America’s Favorite City” (according to Travel + Leisure Magazine) in the front pages of our conference book.
I arrived mid-afternoon after a relatively traffic-free drive south, and I am all set up in an AirBnB at the south end of downtown which will allow me 15 minutes walking each way to help burn off the cheese calories.
We met up with a few of the other MCG members who are attending the conference this year at the Providence Coal Fired Pizza Co. for some excellent slices and few glasses of suds. We are able to meet a long lost Guilder, Louella Hill, at the restaurant who is now a board member of the California Artisan Cheese Guild and has just published a book called Kitchen Creamery. She was helping the Narragansett Creamery with their cheese display as part of the ACS conference “Pub Crawl” which apparently included the PCFP Co. on their map, as we eventually saw many ACS badges appearing around the necks of patrons.
The few “oldsters” (Caitlin, Jesse, and I) dispensed wisdom and advice during dinner, while the youngsters soaked it all in. I hope they are ready for their 7:45am breakfast and then keynote tomorrow morning!
Our next meeting will take place at North Branch Farm in Monroe on Monday, August 10th beginning at 10am. North Branch is a family owned and run, horse-powered, MOFGA certified organic farm located on 330 acres of fields and woodland. Currently they specialize in producing fresh and storage winter vegetables, raw milk, grass-fed beef, pork, and fruit trees, and have now launched an expansion that will include a cheese room and aging facility.
The Maine Department of Agriculture has issued a press release describing the upcoming transition to the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) by the federal government and how it might affect food producers here in Maine.
There will also be an FSMA overview session during the Dairy Sanitation Workshop being put on by Cooperative Extension in Orono on June 1st. Click the link for information on how to register for this workshop (Guild members will receive a 50% discount on their registration fee).
And a more thorough examination of the FSMA will be available at the American Cheese Society’s upcoming “Cheese Camp” conference in Providence, RI beginning July 29th.
University of Maine Cooperative Extension has announced that they will present a Dairy Sanitation Workshop on Monday, June 1st at the University of Maine Orono campus in the Buchanan Alumni Hall, McIntire Room. The Maine Cheese Guild will co-sponsor the event, and Guild members will receive a discount on the workshop fee.
Guild members will get a discount on the registration fee — here is the link to register.
Registration opens at 8:15am and the sessions begin at 9am. This will be an all-day workshop with a break for lunch (included in the workshop fee). There will be a limit of 50 people they can accommodate so it is advised that you register as soon as possible to make sure there is room for you at the workshop.
This workshop will also include the latest update on the upcoming implementation of the federal Food Safety and Modernization Act which will completely overhaul food safety compliance across the country beginning October 2015. (The Guild has posted updates on this periodically but we expect things to change right up through the implementation.)
Below are the licensed cheese makers in Maine as published by the Maine Department of Agriculture. There are 72 Processed Dairy Facilities as of April 2015
At our Annual Meeting last November we committed to sending as large a group as possible to this year’s American Cheese Society conference in Providence, RI July 29th through August 1s. To that end we committed to offering partial grants to UP TO TEN (or as many as we can afford) Guild members to help them with the cost of attendance; the grants would pay for the Early Bird conference fee of around $500, which would be roughly half of total expenses. (Be aware that you must also be a member of ACS to attend the conference, and to submit competition entries.)
It’s time to ask our members to apply to the Guild so that we know how many folks are interested so we can budget accordingly.
If you can commit to attending the ACS Conference this summer and would like to apply for a guild Grant to do so, please write
—one paragraph describing you and your cheese experience,
—and one paragraph describing what you seek to gain by attending the ACS conference;
—your name and contact info;
—send to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject “Guild Grant Request” BEFORE our April 13th meeting.
At that meeting the group will discuss the number of folks seeking a grant, and given our current finances how many grants the Guild can afford to offer. If there are more grant seekers than grants available, the Guild board will review the applications and choose whom will receive Grants before the end of the Early Bird registration.
In addition to conference fee grants, the Guild has committed to offering to pay the entry fee for any Guild member’s first ACS competition entry, and to subsidize a group shipment of all Guild entries into the competition. More info about that effort later this year.
The Maine Cheese Guild stands by it’s Quality Statement, issued in May 2009, with regard to the Local Food Ordinance proposals we have seen, and to the legislative bills introduced for the 2011 session (LD330 and LD366).
Our testimony against LD330, given to the Joint Standing Committee on Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry at the March hearing on this bill follows: