Identity-Driven Dairy Artisans

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The Cheese Shop at Cato Corner Farm. Credit Sherry Peters for The New York Times

A brief history of the cheese-making craft in North America reveals a little-known fact about a domain where women rule:

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The cheese maker Mark Gillman, of Cato Corner Farm, slices a wedge of Womanchego in the farm store. Credit Sherry Peters for The New York Times

…Second-wave pioneers taking back the land in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s included Judy Schad of Capriole Inc. in Greenville, Ind.; Laini Fondiller of Lazy Lady Farm in Westfield, Vt.; and Sue Conley and Peggy Smith of Cowgirl Creamery in Point Reyes Station, Calif.

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Bearded Lady cheese from Prodigal Farm in Rougemont, N.C.

Last year Ms. Schad, 75, introduced Flora, named for her grandmother, who made cheese under less than ideal conditions on her back porch. It joined Piper’s Pyramide, inspired by Ms. Schad’s own first, redheaded granddaughter (“bright and spicy — just like her namesake!”); Sofia, for a longtime friend (“a queen at any age!”); and Julianna, after a Hungarian intern. “Beneath her wrinkly exterior lies a complexity not often found in such a young cheese,” reads Capriole’s description of the Wabash Cannonball, a popular, prizewinning cheese named for the folk song about a fictional train sung by Johnny Cash.

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The Dancing Goats Dairy. Credit Kayana Szymczak for The New York Times

“I think these cheeses are women — and sometimes they’re ladies, sometimes they’re not,” Ms. Schad said. “But the flavor is subtle. They don’t hit you over the head with a rolling pin.”

A commonly cited fantasy Plan B among urban paper-pushing professionals, the artisanal-cheese business has surged in recent years, with more than 900 specialty cheese makers in the United States, according to the American Cheese Society, a nonprofit trade organization in Denver. The A.C.S. does not keep data on gender, said its executive director, Nora Weiser, but compared with the bro-centric field of craft beer, where female brewers have struggled to get respect and recognition despite significant contributions, cheese making is a relative haven. Membership has more than doubled since 2005 and now numbers 1,800. “There aren’t many breakoff groups, because there don’t need to be,” Ms. Weiser said…

Read the whole article here.

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