I wanted to go to the Cheese Festival in Vermont and this year we made it. We followed the map to discover small artisans and go to farms that are not open to the public, but who were generous with their time to share their craft. One of our favorite discoveries was Thistle Hill Farm,  located on mountain top in Pomfret, Vermont. A certified organic farm in the traditional method. We met John Putnam, owner, passionate about his business, he inspired us with his quirky humor, his dedication to every detail and charming hospitality. He and his wife traveled to Switzerland to learn the Alpine method, cheese made in copper vats, with the milk from his cows, Tarine Jersey Cows to produce the finest cheese. Tarentaise, a Vermont Alpine Cheese is the name, and follows the tradition of the Savoire region in the French Alps. What we learned is the cows graze as they go higher on the mountain and that produces better milk. John is a farmer, scientist, lawyer by trade, and with the cows producing 100% pure milk because of the high white blood cell count, they get more omega 3’s…he controls the quality of the cheese and uses only the milk from his herd. Beautiful property, meticulously clean, hard working craftsman and family. He has interns from Europe that come in the summer…an international experience. They sell direct to key chefs in restaurants and markets.

 

 

Fat Toad Farm, discovered by searching the Vermont Cheese Map in Brookfield, Vt, we met Judy Irving, owner with her family of the goat farm with 65 female and 4 male goats…we learned all about the goats they love. The goat milk is preserved by an historical method by making ‘cajete’ which is a Mexican confection. Judy’s daughter went to Mexico as a student, learned the methods of producing the caramel,  brought back the skills as well as her marketing expertise to produce a great caramel and sell to distributors, Whole Foods, and private labels. We learned about poop…barn insulation, wasps who eat the flies, and how the males attract females… urine on their their beards…the visual quite strange. The product is delicious!

Clouldland Farm is in the vicinity of Galaxy HIll, a georgous spot and is the 5th generation to grow angus beef, pigs, chickens, and farm to table market food. The restaurant serves one menu on the weekends and the night we were there we had pork belly. Not great for the gall bladder but a delicacy and totally worth it.

Image

Caledonia Spirits  in Hardwich, Vermont I found at the Shelbourne Farm Cheese Festival. They won the double gold metal at the NY International Spirits Competition for their Barr Gin made with honey. I am enthralled with BEES…more to come on this later. The honey smooths the gin and allows it to be unique, not sweet as it plays with the organic juniper berries. They make vodka too which is delicious…so as a gin drinker I am a big fan. New discoveries!

The aha moment… The people we met were passionate producers of wonderful products, perfectionists, providing a living for their families and employees who become their family. They are creative, not small time players, they sell to distributors and ship around the world. They buy their milk, hay, from organic sources and dedicated to the environment. They are biologists, scientists, know animal husbandry, and warm personalities that love the great outdoors. They welcomed my curiosity and treated me like a friend. And we were able to share this with our friends Susie, Jack, Bonnie, Karen and Scott from our Midwest fishing group. That was the most fun!

CURRENT EVENTS LAST WEEK Apple hires Burberry CEO as Retail Chief. I have been following Angela Ahrendts for years, especially when she was highlighed in the WSJ Magazine and her life in the English countryside. Her leadership style has inspired me, she created teams, empowered them with clear high expectations, and made tough business decisions on cutting expenses that did not impact the customer. She also did not roll out stores like Coach, and treated markets differently. What I also like about the Burberry brand is they contribute 1% of their profits to the Burberry Foundationto support disadvantaged youth in the communities surrounding their stores. Today Apple store sales per sq ft are -4.5% YTD, their website static, so Apple’s leadership search was critical. Hmm…let’s keep track of how she improves this most creative brand. A big assignment!