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Kennedy: Cheesemaker may still survive

Kennedy: Cheesemaker may still survive

Vermont cheesemaker Consider Bardwell Farm may not be down for the count after all.

Laments rolled in when the business announced it would cease manufacturing its award-winning raw-milk goat and cow cheeses after a voluntary recall.

The cheeses, distributed in five states, were recalled Sept. 30 for possible Listeria contamination. No illnesses were reported.

But on Oct. 24, Consider Bardwell alerted its legion of fans via social media that it did not have the wherewithal “to recover from the recall and sustain our business to move forward.”

The enterprise, encompassing 300 acres that stretch across the New York border into Washington County, marked its 15 th anniversary in May. It took shape after its founding couple, searching for a bucolic weekend retreat from their hectic New York City careers, learned the farm was the site of a 19 th century cheesemaking co-op.

The couple, Angela Miller and Russell “Rust” Glover – she a literary agent for culinary writers and he an architect – brought purebred dairy goats to the farm for their hand-made cheeses; neighbors’ cows also provided raw milk.

This year, Consider Bardwell was on tap to produce 120,000 pounds of cheese, Miller told me this week. The business employed 20 people.

Most of the workers are gone now; a few part-time roles remain. The farm still has its goats, and the herd manager, Miller said, although between November and March, after breeding in the fall, the goats normally aren’t milked.

But Miller hopes to return the farm to cheesemaking – albeit on a “much smaller” scale, perhaps at less than half its most recent output, “if we’re lucky,” she said.

Consider Bardwell likely will also shift to pasteurized rather than raw-milk cheeses. The process of producing the former may take a bit more time up-front, but the cheese would be ready sooner and be less vulnerable to pathogens, according to Miller.

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration, which oversees dairy products, frowns on raw-milk cheeses, but allows their sale if aged for specific periods (of no less than 60 days) at specific temperatures.

The agency favors pasteurization, which involves heating raw milk to kill bacteria. Many artisanal cheesemakers, though, say the process affects the flavor.

Miller seems to take the debate in stride. “We have very, very, very fine recipes” that can
hold up to pasteurization, she said.

Meanwhile, Miller is weighing ways to finance renewed cheesemaking. The farm sold two buildings to get some cash (“We have payables right now,” Miller said), and she has heard from “various people interested in helping out.”

Consider Bardwell also will launch a fund-raising campaign right after Thanksgiving through its website and social media accounts, Miller said, using the talents of Rebecca Breese, marketing and sponsorship coordinator for the Washington County Fair, who also is involved in the annual Washington County Cheese Tour.

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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