One Cheese at a Time: Jasper Hill Farm and the Rise of Vermont’s Local Food Movement

Just down the road from my old farmhouse in Glover…

Video: MCA Productions

 

“These Cheeses Sustain Vermont’s Working Landscape.” So it says across the top of Jasper Hill Farms‘ press packet. For brothers Mateo and Andy Kehler, who founded Jasper Hill, making excellent cheese is not just about running a successful family business, it also is about revitalizing the local agrarian economy.

Central to that vision are the cheese cellars at Jasper Hill (the blueprints for which, are part of the company logo). Designed in 2006, this 22,000-foot, state-of-the-art facility features seven caves or vaults, each calibrated to produce a specific type of cheese. Here, and in their dairy and creamery, the Kehler brothers employ close to 50 locals. More broadly, they help sustain other regional dairies by providing affinage (cheese-ripening expertise), as well as marketing and distribution services. Finally, Jasper Hill plays an active role in a growing network of local craft food entrepreneurs, sustainable farmers, and educational institutions that is redefining the Northeast Kingdom as a mecca for slow food.

Above: Jasper Hill Farms is in Greensboro, part of Vermont’s picturesque Northeast Kingdom, which for years was a center of dairy farming. As boys, Andy and Mateo Kehler, whose family ties to the area go back 100 years, enjoyed summers among these rolling hills. But by the time the brothers were young men, more than a third of the farms that had sustained the region were failing. In an effort to invest in the community they loved, Mateo and Andy Kehler bought Jasper Hill Farm, and began making raw-milk cheese.

Jasper Hill Cheese Cellars, Wrapping Blue and Tolman cheeses, by Justine Hand for Gardenista_edited-1

Clarence, the supervisor for Vault 7, works with young Alpha Tolman (R) and Bayley Hazen Blue (L).
Photo: Justine Hand for Gardenista.

Jasper Hill Cheese Caves, Oma Pairing, by Justine Hand for Gardenista_0

Oma cheese paired with fresh figs.
Photo: Justine Hand for Gardenista.

 

BY JUSTINE HAND

 

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