Kennedy: Popular cheesemaker done in by recall


Categories: Business

The next farm census for New York and Vermont could be down by at least one operation.

That’s because Consider Bardwell Farm, the artisan cheesemaker on 300 acres straddling the states’ border in rural Washington and Rutland counties, just announced it would cease manufacturing.

The enterprise, beloved by many, judging from the hundreds of condolences posted to social media, specialized in raw-milk cheeses from goats and cows. Founded 15 years ago by a New York City literary agent and a self-described “grumpy Englishman” architect, Consider Bardwell sold to consumers, restaurants and greenmarkets far and wide.

But on Sept. 30, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration posted a voluntary recall from the farm of three cheeses possibly contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, a bacterium that can cause serious illness in pregnant women, newborns and the elderly, and otherwise sickens people with fever and diarrhea.

The affected cheeses, dubbed Slyboro, Dorset and Experience, date to first production in April and were distributed in five states, including New York and Vermont. The bacterium was discovered during routine testing.

Whole Foods also posted a recall notice to the FDA Sept. 30, for the Dorset cheese it sold in the Northeast.

No illnesses had been reported to date, according to the farm’s recall announcement. But the business suffered nonetheless.

Two weeks ago, Angela Miller, the literary agent half of the founding couple, posted on social media that “current funds do not allow us to continue manufacturing and selling our cheeses,” Vermont media outlets reported. “We simply do not have the cash flow and resources to recover from the recall and sustain our business to move forward.”

I couldn’t find any interviews that Miller gave on the decision and what it meant for the future of the farm, its workers and its ancillary operations, including active Airbnb listings for farm stays. (An email seeking comment was not immediately answered.)

Miller had been interviewed over the years about the evolving business, which she once described as a “happy accident.” Press accounts indicated she and Russell “Rust” Glover, her “grumpy Englishman” husband, had been looking for a less-crowded alternative to their former Shelter Island get-away when they found the farm in West Pawlet, Vt.

They subsequently learned it was the site of Vermont’s first cheese-making co-op, started in the late 1800s by community leader Consider Stebbins Bardwell, which provided the seed (and name) from which the farm grew.

Miller and Glover kept their “day jobs” while nurturing the farm, which they bought in 2001. Purebred dairy goats were added in 2002, and a state creamery license for production was secured in 2004. Neighbors provided the cow’s milk.

Over the years, the farm, an annual stop on the fall Washington County Cheese Tour, won medals for its cheeses, and the peration itself was cited for its sustainability practices.

In a 2010 memoir, “Hay Fever,” Miller describes herself as then “on the wrong side of 60” but not interested in slowing down.

The farm, with its unexpected ups and downs, “energized” her, she wrote. “For that, I feel extraordinarily grateful.”

Marlene Kennedy is a freelance columnist. Opinions expressed in her column are her own and not necessarily the newspaper’s. Reach her at [email protected]

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