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Local Cheese Gives Virginia County Identity

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Cows raised on a nearby hill, grazing on apples from an orchard down the road, milked exclusively for a cheesemaker on the edge of the next town, and shipped to a monger downtown––this is what Gail Hobbs-Paige envisions when she talks about “identity of place” in her home county of Albemarle, VA. Her operation, Caromont Farm, has been contributing to what many consider a culinary movement of expression for the area, placing the local cheese and other farm products on the national map.

Hobbs-Page, a former chef, began cheesemaking after a 27-year career in the kitchen and has repurposed much of her cooking knowledge and passion into her new craft. From an interview with Charlottesville Tomorrow: “‘I rather naïvely thought that if you know about cheese you could certainly make it, and that was the beginning of Caromont Farm,’ Hobbs-Page said.” Upon starting her business, she began raising her own goats and released her first cheese, a fresh chevré, which set her on the path to winning awards from the American Cheese Society with her later products. Hobbs-Page also studied the practices of several artisanal Vermont cheesemakers like Jasper Hill Farms, taking their tricks of the trade back home. She eventually began training her own apprentices, which has given her quite the strong network in Albemarle County’s local cheese community. “Hobbs-Page added cow’s milk cheeses to expand her offerings but she had to find a local source that she trusted. She now uses milk from Silky Cow Farm in, started in 2012 by Amy and Nathan Vergin.’He was my first intern,’ Hobbs-Page said.”

Ultimately, though, this network she’s established is not only beneficial for the local cheese community, but also for the farming community as a whole. The Albermarle CiderWorks grows its apples in North Garden, and the Vergins’ cows feed off of that same land. They supply Hobbs-Page’s milk, who, in turn, supplies nearby Flora Artisanal Cheese, a cheesemonger’s shop in the heart of the county. This partnership is about using what the county has to offer, and therefore the cheese that it ships beyond can truly be claimed as a product of Albermarle. Beyond her business partnerships, Hobbs-Page has started working with elementary school students in order to teach them about the importance of place––and about having a sense of pride in where you come from.

Read more at Charlottesville Tomorrow

Photo by Andrew Shurtleff / Daily Progress

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