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Photo Essay: Cheese Labels


Sequatchie Cove Creamery

Sequatchie, Tenn.

The cow on Sequatchie Cove Creamery’s label isn’t just any old bovine. “Her name is Rose,” says owner Padgett Arnold, “our first American Milking Devon, a breed that was part of our original inspiration to begin dairying … We’ve always loved working with rare heritage breeds and thought Devons would be a perfect fit.” While it turned out that the cows were unable to produce the quantity of milk needed to sustain the business, the breed still symbolizes the passion behind farmstead cheesemaking— so Arnold had Rose immortalized on a label by her good friend, artist and landscape designer Dan Pate. “His use of color and movement create such a dynamic feel to the image, which we thought would illustrate the rhythm of life and the spirit of Sequatchie Cove Farm,” Arnold says.


Green Dirt Farm

Weston, Mo.

The curlicue sheep present on all of Green Dirt Farm’s labels was originally an absent-minded sketch on a napkin, says owner Sarah Hoffmann. “I am a constant doodler—it’s practically a nervous twitch. My doodles are always based around spirals, and my family and friends seem to think it’s related to the tight curls of my hair. But it happens that spirals are a great reference to wool, too.” In 2016 the Green Dirt mascot got a makeover. “We added the face because we wanted to show how happy she is,” Hoffmann says. “We are an Animal Welfare Approved dairy and creamery and are very passionate about our values of humane animal treatment … When she [the mascot] is happy, we are happy.”


The Farm at Doe Run

Unionville, Penn.

Curds and their labels are deeply intertwined at The Farm at Doe Run. Before each cheese is named, it goes through rounds of tasting by employees and wholesale customers, where samplers record their reactions. Next, the creamery team collects all the descriptive words and begins to narrow down the list, focusing on potential names “drawn from nature and our direct environment,” says marketing and sales manager Stacey Gentile. “Willow” came from a tree visible from the creamery’s make room, its lilting branches reminiscent of words on the list: airy, cloudlike. Gentile worked with The Farm at Doe Run’s sketch artist, Carrie Yotter, to develop the watercolor painting that adorns Willow’s label. Paired with flowing, handwritten text, the sticker captures the character of the wheel inside.

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Artisan Cheese Exchange

Sheboygan, Wis.

Deer Creek The Fawn was the Artisan Cheese Exchange’s first “unique cheese,” says owner Chris Gentine, and as such, it needed a unique label. “A good friend of mine, a graphic artist, had done our [other] cheddar labels, but I wanted something different,” says Gentine. So he looked closer to home, recalling that his artistic teenage daughter, Sophie, had recently requested a Coach purse. So he made her a deal she couldn’t refuse: Draw the label, and they’d talk about the bag.

Gentine’s daughter sketched up a fawn right then and there, consulting with the graphic artist who worked on the Artisan Cheese Exchange’s other packaging. (“She really wanted that purse,” says Gentine.) The logo was a hit, and she went on to design the packaging for The Stag—in exchange for “a couple pairs of Toms shoes”—as well as for other cheeses in the Deer Creek line.

“I can’t tell you how very proud I am of her,” says Gentine. “It’s great to see cheesemongers all over the country with Fawn, Stag, and Robin stickers on their cheese carts, water bottles, skateboards, and bikes.”


Plymouth Artisan Cheese Co.

Plymouth, Vt.

In 2009, Jesse Werner asked his friend Sarit Melmed, a graphic designer at Ralph Lauren in New York City, to design some labels for a line of Vermont cheeses he was launching. The cheeses were based on an 1890 recipe used by John Coolidge (Calvin Coolidge’s father) and would be made in the same factory, as well as cut and waxed in the same fashion.

Naturally, Werner wanted a retro-leaning label, and Melmed was an expert: “My background is in vintage ephemera design and research, so I was very inspired by the wealth of graphic information that already existed at the Plymouth Cheese Factory, including the original logo and brass stencils used to brand cheese boxes from the turn of the century, as well as signs, stickers, and wall markings.”

She based the new logo on the original, preserving the red-and-black color scheme and decorative chevron glyph. Cheeses in the hand-waxed series, such as Smoked Cheddar, sport labels with old-fashioned typography and wax colors indicative of the cheese’s age or flavor. Melmed moved to Vermont in 2013 to continue her work with Plymouth Artisan Cheese and to start her own business, Empress Branding. It turned out to be a smart move—she and Jesse were married in September 2015. “Cheesily ever after,” Sarit says.


Four Fat Fowl

Stephentown, N.Y.

The label for Four Fat Fowl’s only cheese, St. Stephen, pays tribute to the creamery’s hometown. Stephentown, N.Y., was once part of a colonial Dutch patroonship—“sort of like a manor,” says vice president of marketing Josie Madison—and all residents had to pay rent to the patroon, a landlordlike figure who controlled the area. How much and what exactly they had to fork over varied depending on acreage and other factors, but every tenant was required to give “four fat fowl.” “We loved the ring of that,” says Madison, “so we chose it as the name of our creamery … and developed the logo based on it.”

However, not everyone was keen on featuring chickens on the label. “I attended an entrepreneurship boot camp,” says Madison, “and some of the advisers … were concerned the chickens were going to confuse people as to what the product was. But we stuck to our guns … and it stands out in the case because it is a little quirky, and that orange really catches people’s eyes.”

Cheese Label Goat Brie

The Farm House Natural Cheeses

Kent, Canada

Simplicity is a way of life at The Farm House Natural Cheeses—“simple, honest food,” that is, says co-owner and head cheesemaker Debra Amrein-Boyes. The creamery wanted a label that would reflect that sentiment, so it had to be black and white—they later landed on a clean line drawing of their 1950s-era farmhouse as the main image. Amrein-Boyes looked to her sister, artist Wendy Dewar Hughes, to sketch the structure. And Dewar Hughes rendered it faithfully, down to the last detail present the day she did her drawing, such as a stray cat napping in the sun on the front steps.


Pure Luck Farm & Dairy

Dripping Springs, Texas

When Pure Luck Farm started making cheese back in 1995, they sold their wheels swathed in plastic wrap, bearing hand-stamped paper labels. Not long after, the creamery had some official emblems made up, with blocky red and black text and a horseshoe image. “It seemed good enough,” co-owner Amelia Sweethardt says, “and pretty much said all the right things.” But in 2011, as the Pure Luck team geared up for their first American Cheese Society Conference, Sweethardt was ready for a change. She asked a favorite artist, Jon Flaming, to spruce up their branding. What she got was a “total shock,” she says. “I thought he was just going to fix it up a little, but it was completely different.” Flaming explained the reason for the change—the red-and-black motif was “too shiny for a farmstead operation”—and presented a label with soft colors “that looked handmade, much like our cheeses and farm,” says Sweethardt. “We love it and have never looked back. And I’m still crazy about Jon’s work.”


The Grey Barn

Chilmark, Mass.

With a degree in sculpture and experience as an art director, co-owner Molly Glasgow has an eye for aesthetics. It’s no wonder then that she spearheaded The Grey Barn’s cheese packaging, seeking to incorporate French tile designs while maintaining a timeless feel. “I felt strongly that I wanted the packaging to be a variation on black and white. It felt classic,” Glasgow said in a recent interview on Tenaya Darlington’s blog, Madame Fromage. “I also wanted it to have a feminine touch.” (See the floral- patterned cheese paper Prufrock squares are wrapped in.)

The Glasgows relocated from New York City to London after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, but as work grew more demanding, they decided to strike out on a different path—one that took them to Martha’s Vineyard: “Literally one day Eric said, ‘I want to quit my job.’ I said ‘OK, sounds like a good idea.’ We looked at each other, at our little family garden, and decided we should become farmers. Sounds stupid, right? I mean who does that? We did.”


Goat Lady Dairy

Climax, N.C.

When the late Ginnie Tate started a hobby farm in 1984 in rural North Carolina, she quickly became known around town as “The Goat Lady.” It only seemed natural to run with the name, and Goat Lady Dairy was founded as a commercial operation in 1995, after Ginnie’s brother, Steve, and his wife, Lee, joined the team. Coming up with a logo was the next step. “We worked with a couple of grad students from our local university, but none of them came up with anything we liked,” Steve Tate says. Frustrated, Lee took matters into her own hands. “When we all saw the simple, intimate image she created,” says Steve, “we decided we had our logo for Goat Lady Dairy. No need to look further.”


Garden Variety Cheese

Royal Oaks, Calif.

When devising the labels for Garden Variety Cheese, founder Rebecca King looked to a graphic designer friend, a recent trip to Basque country, and vintage packaging. “I had been in the Basque country and loved the traditional cheese labels I saw there. I also really love fruit crate label artwork and old seed catalog art,” she says. King and her designer perused the web, including Smithsonian resources, to find the right feel for the emblem. She also made sure to incorporate sheep portraits, a nod to the European labels she encountered and the fact that her cheeses are named after her animals: “Most of the animals on my labels are drawn from photos of real sheep in my flock. I really love all of them,” King says.


Rogue Creamery

Central Point, Ore.

The cheery character on Rogue Creamery’s Caveman Blue label is more than just a cartoon—he’s a piece of history. “In earlier times we had a cheese shop in Grants Pass, [Ore.] … The caveman is the symbol for this town,” explains marketing director Francis Plowman. [Editor’s note: While that shop closed in 1998, an additional Grants Pass location opened in 2015.] In the 1920s a men’s group called the Oregon Cavemen were known about town for their Neanderthal-like dress and presence in parades. While the group was originally founded to promote the region’s marble caves, the larger-than-life figure quickly became a symbol of Grants Pass—a 17-foot-tall fiberglass caveman statue still welcomes visitors today. Rogue Creamery president and owner David Gremmels wanted to pay homage to the town and its history, so he sketched the icon for the Caveman Blue label.

Rebecca Haley-Park

Rebecca Haley-Park is culture's former editor and resident stinky cheese cheerleader. A native New Englander, she holds a BFA in creative writing from University of Maine at Farmington.

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