The word “guild” may evoke images of medieval craftsmen, but the idea is still alive and well among cheesemakers in the United States. The goal of these groups is to connect cheesemakers with each other, as well as educate anyone who appreciates good cheese (like all of us here at culture!) Their websites provide information about cheese in the region or state, as well as helpful resources for chefs and retailers who are hoping to incorporate local cheese into their business.
Here are just a few highlights of some of the cheese guilds you can find around the United States:
Massachusetts Cheese Guild
Agriculture used to be the leading occupation for New England, and even though things have changed, consumers have started to demand local, artisan cheeses. The Massachusetts Cheese Guild, a nonprofit consumer education group, is comprised of cheesemakers, retailers, distributors, and cheese fans who can pay a small fee online in exchange for information about tastings and events. Guild President Barbara Hanley hopes to education consumers in the Bay State about all the great cheese being made here. Another goal of the guild is to mentor aspiring cheesemakers who are trying to break into the business. You can read more about it in this Boston Globe article.
The Southern Cheesemakers’ Guild
Another region with a rich history of farmstead dairying, this small but growing group currently includes creameries in Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. Membership is open to commercial cheesemakers in any “southern” state (which are loosely defined), but they also encourage membership of anyone who is seriously working towards starting their own cheese business.
Wisconsin Artisan Cheesemaker Guild
Of course the state most readily associated with cheese has a guild for artisan cheesemakers. This group’s mission is to connect current cheesemakers with those who are just starting out, in order to provide networking and educational opportunities. Membership is not open to consumers or retailers, unlike some other guilds. They are dedicated to celebrating and increasing exposure of Wisconsin artistan and farmstead cheesemakers.
Oregon Cheese Guild
The website includes information about the Guild’s Oregon Cheese Trail, that encourages cheese tourism, as well as a comprehensive directory of all Oregon Cheesemakers. The Guild also hosts yearly events for the general public, such as The Wedge, a cheese tasting event in Portland. It also boasts that it is “one of the few cheese guild organizations nationwide that involves all milk types–cow, goat, and sheep–in a single organization.”
Check out these other guilds around the country: Ohio Cheese Guild, Maine Cheese Guild, Vermont Cheese Council, and California Artisan Cheese Guild. We suggest taking a look around any of these websites’ helpful resources, especially if you live in or plan to visit one of these areas and want to discover some seriously good cheese.
Photo credit: Featured image of cheese display for MA Cheese Guild Launch courtesy of Essdras M. Suarez for Boston Globe