Kickstart it: The Cheeseletes!
The cheese industry is one that you need more information than just the basic "how-to's" of doing your job. Once you get the knack of cutting and wrapping cheese, you start getting hit with questions about flavor profiles, how a cheese is made, or what components are in the milk itself. This doesn't even include the basic understandings of how farms work. It's a lot of information. It's not all easy to find either. Google searches can produce a wealth of information but there are many things that, with the newness of the artisan cheese industry in the US, are just not available. In all fairness, information is so much more readily available than it was when I started 15 years ago but that doesn't mean that we don't still have a long way to go. There is no lack of people trying to share information in the industry. From coordinated trips to visit producers to cheese 101 classes, people are doing their best to educate. As with most efforts to educate these days, money is a hurdle that is difficult to surmount. This is where The Cheeseletes (think cheese athletes!) come in! Last year, Rachel Juhl and Jess Perrie combined their forces to pull off a 5k run to benefit continuing cheese education. It went so well that they are creating a non-profit organization to use as a platform to raise money for organizations committed to the access of cheese education.
The Daphne Zepos Teaching Award is a scholarship that allows its recipients to take time away from work and travel to far off destinations in search of answers to some pretty big questions. Questions like: How can we begin using native cultures in cheesemaking in the US so we can truly cultivate our own true terroir? How does affinage affect cheese and how are different countries doing it? What makes Spain's tradition of shepherding so special and different? These aren't easy questions but they are necessary and a fresh eye needs to be placed on these things so we can all learn and grow from them.
The American Cheese Education Foundation is a foundation centered around cheese education and scholarships for individuals trying to attend their first American Cheese Society Conference. From cheesemakers to retail workers, the ACE Foundation has scholarships to cover the immense costs of attending the conference. They have also conducted a survey of the industry to get a snapshot of the American artisan cheese industry. Data like this has never been done in such a major scale and the repercussions of the findings and data could lead to better practices and a better understanding of our industry as a whole.
So, you may be thinking to yourself, "Well, this is all great but what's that got to do with me?". The fact of the matter is, we need your help. Juhl and Jess are trying to create The Cheeseletes to continue fundraising for these very important organizations and to create a more sustainable community of education. They have created a Kickstarter to get things off the ground and the end is drawing near. The thing is, IT IS SO CLOSE TO BEING FUNDED! The major part of the hurdle has been cleared so now it's time for the final push across the finish line! I'm asking you to take a look at the Kickstarter and see what they have to say about what they are doing, look at the rewards of donating, and see if this is something you feel you can back.
As the official photographer for the Run4Cheese5k, I appreciate you taking the time to check out something that is so dear to my heart. Our industry needs the continued education and consumers benefit from having knowledgable mongers and staff at their favorite stores.