On the Horizon: a Southern Cheese Council


Among the dozens of overused food quotes, “Cheese is milk’s leap towards immortality” (Brillat-Savarin Clifton Fadiman) is probably my favorite. American milk has been bounding toward eternity in the care of increasingly skillful hands over the last few decades. Small-scale farmers have grown from making simple, fledgling efforts to crafting sublime cheeses that can stand beside Europe’s finest. With the growth of this industry, organizations in major cheese making regions have naturally popped up to support cheese makers and educate consumers. Vermont Cheese Council and the California Artisan Cheese Guild are two biggies.

Now a Southern Cheese Council is in the works, spearheaded by three cheese heads immersed in the business: Tim Gaddis (pictured right), the cheese monger at Star Provisions ; Brian McMillan, owner of Birmingham’s wholesaler the Cheese Advocate, and Teresa Pope, a grass roots distributor who goes directly to regional farms to pick up cheeses for her customers [07/03 note: see Teresa’s comment below]. “People will come into the shop and I’ll say, ‘Hey, check out this cheese from North Carolina!’” says Gaddis. “And many of the customers respond, ‘They make cheese in North Carolina?’ It’s hard for these farmers to get the word out, they’re too busy just getting the product made.”

Gaddis says the nonprofit council aims to be official by early September. The founders are finalizing a board, and cheese makers who’ve already pledged membership include Jeremy Little of Sweet Grass Dairy, Corey Hinkel at Alabama’s Yellow Moon Cheese Company, and Rebecca and Ross Williams, who hope to be producing cheese from Serenbe within the next year. Beyond helping cheese makers with marketing and distribution, early goals for the council include organizing cheese tastings, conducting cheese making classes, and creating an online forum where the cheesemakers can chat among themselves—“essentially an online conference call,” according to Gaddis.

In other news, a press release sent out this afternoon announced Keith Blok as the new cheese maker at Flat Creek Lodge in Swainsboro, replacing Dane Huebner. Actually, the release called him the new “head cheese maker”—not sure if that foodie pun was intended or not.