Join the Revival of American Artisan Cheesemaking
America is enjoying a revival of the time-honored craft of artisan cheesemaking. Over the past several years, American artisan cheese has claimed its place in cheese cases at co-ops, upscale and specialty stores and at farmers’ markets.
Around the country, artisan cheesemakers are emerging with cheeses that rival, and even top, European classics. Small scale or tiny, farmers’ market-focused or regional, artisan cheesemakers are a growing presence in the cheese world.
Defining Artisan Cheese
Artisan cheese falls under the general heading of specialty cheese, according to industry lingo. Specialty cheese has unique qualities including exotic origin (sheep or goat milk for instance), special processing (handcrafted, traditional techniques, on-farm production), design, limited supply, unusual application, and/or extraordinary packaging or sale channel. A category of specialty cheese, artisan cheese is produced in small batches, primarily by hand, often using traditional production and aging techniques. Farmstead cheese is artisan cheese produced on a farm using only milk from the farms’ herd/flock.
Cheese Making in Minnesota
Artisan cheesemaking can be a great fit for sustainable farming. As a value-added component of a sustainable farming plan, cheesemaking can be another step in the holistic cycle of land to food. And, with increasing public focus on buying local food, Minnesota artisan cheese is a welcome addition.
Minnesota has many of the resources necessary to foster new artisan cheesemakers – beautiful, fertile land; growing numbers of sustainable farms; a tradition of dairy (cow, goat, and sheep); a history of cheesemaking education and technical support; and a legacy of innovators and hard work.
Minnesota artisan cheesemakers are few and far between. But, we are a growing part of a larger community of cheesemakers. Next door, Wisconsin is home to many artisan and farmstead cheesemakers. Throughout the United States, artisan cheesemakers can be found with larger clusters in several states including Vermont, California, Washington, and others.