Here’s your chance to put your love of cheese toward a good cause. This year marks the third annual FedEx Small Business Grant Contest, which allows people (like you!) to vote for small businesses hoping to get a grant and expand their business. One Grand Prize winner will be awarded $25,000, a Second-Place winner will get $10,000, and eight runners-up come out with $5,000 apiece.
In 2014, Fat Toad Farms of Vermont won the Grand Prize. They make some pretty great cajeta, or goat’s milk caramel, so we were particularly pleased that they got the opportunity to do more of what they’re doing. The farm has experienced some growing pains, including the destruction of their warehouse space by a flood when they didn’t have flood insurance and a short-lived time where they produced cheese.
Fat Toad now focuses exclusively on caramel, and with their grant from FedEx they were able to make major improvements to their production facility and upgrade their stoves to professional-grade candy stoves. Thanks to their hard work and improvements, Fat Toad cajeta can be found in more than 300 specialty food stores nationwide, including Whole Foods and Dean & Deluca.
This year, there are several cheese-related ventures vying for the 2015 small business grant, and being a cheese magazine, we want one or all of them to win! Here’s who to look out for:
Sequatchie Cove Creamery
Sequatchie Cove Creamery in Sequatchie, Tenn., crafts farmstead raw-milk cheeses using European traditions. Their cheeses are made from fresh cow’s milk made on the farm. Focused on natural, real cheeses, they want a grant to make more cheese not only to meet customer demand but to expand even further. You can check out their soft and gooey Dancing Fern in our Cheese Library. Cast your vote here!
Black Mesa Ranch
Black Mesa Ranch in Snowflake, Ariz., is a fully diversified farm that is also off grid—they get all their power from wind and solar. They milk about 30 goats onsite to make their goat cheese. Black Mesa Ranch’s rural location means nearly all their products are directly shipped to consumers, and a grant would improve their efficiency and logistics in addition to making infrastructure upgrades. You can check more about Black Mesa Ranch and vote for them here.
Redhead Creamery in Brooten, Minn., milks 200 cows on farm and ages their cheese in their own underground caves. They spent years touring dairies in Vermont and Wisconsin before starting Redhead Creamery in 2013 and successfully putting their first cheddar into the caves in July 2014. With a grant, Redhead Creamery would focus on increasing shipping efficiency, including buying a computer/scale system and inventory software. Learn more and drop ’em a vote!
American Grilled Cheese Kitchen
The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen in San Francisco, Calif., provides artisan comfort foods (with a focus on grilled cheese, of course). AGCK started in 2010 after Heidi, one of the co-owners, won her seventh championship trophy at the Grilled Cheese Invitational in LA. Employing 30 staff at two locations, AGCK is certified “green” for their practices. They would use the grant to fund member training and development programs for their staff, create more skilled jobs, and continue to support the local vendors they work with. You can read more and shoot a vote their way here.
Feature Photo Credit: “Funny cow on a green summer meadow. Blurred background” by Dudarev Mikhail | Shutterstock