During the month of May, in celebration of American Cheese Month, we’re spotlighting a few of our local cheesemakers. These small producers keep our cheese case well-stocked with their unique, handcrafted cheeses. Each one has a unique story and a true passion for the craft of cheesemaking.
We’re greatly appreciative to Carleton Yoder, owner and cheesemaker at Champlain Valley Creamery in Middlebury, Vermont, for taking the time to share his cheesemaking journey with us. We’re suckers for their creamy, soft-ripened cheeses made using fresh organic milk from a small neighboring farm.
Q. What can you tell us about the history of the creamery?
A. We started the creamery in 2003 in Vergennes with Old Fashioned Organic Cream Cheese and moved to Middlebury in 2012.
Q. When and how did you first get into the cheese-making business?
A. I moved to Vermont in 1996 to make hard cider in Middlebury. I have a master’s degree in Food Science from Virginia Tech and a background in winemaking. I wanted to do something in food on my own; cheese became the something!
Q. Where did you receive your training as a cheesemaker?
A. I’m mostly self-taught, but did a stint at Shelburne Farms making cheddar to get a feel for the commercial cheesemaking scale.
Q. What makes your product unique or special?
A. We are probably one of the smallest creameries to separate our milk to make cream-added cheeses, operating a vintage DeLaval cream separator. Also, our milk is single-source, 100% grass-fed organic. You can learn more about their cheesemaking process here.
Q. What are the most important things to you in the cheesemaking process?
A. Probably cleanliness and safety, along with attention to detail.
Q. How did the Covid-19 crisis impact your business?
A. Initially, Covid put a huge slowdown on the business, but we recovered and had our best year in 2020, followed by an even better 2021. I feel people shifted buying habits even more locally during the pandemic, which has been a benefit to our small business.
Q. Anything new or exciting coming up at the creamery?
A. We have been slowly transitioning to production of the triple cream into block forms, which will allow us to make more cheese a little less manually and with more consistency while saving physical space. The struggle has been supply chain issues with getting the needed equipment from Italy and France!
Q. Do you have a desert island cheese?
A. I’d say Reggianno, as we make mostly fresh and short-aged cheese that would not last long on a desert island! Plus, Parm is super versatile!😊
Q. Anything else you’d like to add?
A. Thanks to WFM for supporting us over the years!