In the late 70's, as a college student in France, Allison Hooper had no farm experience. She began writing letters to organic farmers, asking if they could use a little help. She’d work hard and learn quickly — that was her offer. A family in Brittany answered, inviting her to join them. She was soon enjoying not only the satisfaction of working the land, but gaining a full-fledged education in the European tradition of artisanal cheesemaking.
In the early 80's, Bob Reese was in a bind. As marketing director of the Vermont Department of Agriculture, he was organizing a special state dinner. The French chef needed goat cheese — scarce in Vermont at the time. Bob knew just who to call, a dairy lab technician who’d spent some time in France. Allison Hooper. She could make chèvre, couldn’t she? She could, and indeed she did. Allison’s chèvre was the buzz of the banquet. By the time the tables were cleared, she and Bob were planning a cheesemaking partnership.
Launched in 1984, Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery still follows the path Bob and Allison took years ago — crafting artisanal dairy products in the European style through a vital link with local farms. Based in the town of Websterville, the company supports a network of more than 20 family farms, providing milk meeting the highest standards of purity. The company is proudest of its contribution to the health of local agriculture. As Allison learned early on in France, quality originates at the source — with the people who work the land and take pride in their yield.
Goats’ milk is white and is higher in vitamins, calcium and phosphorus, compared to cows’ milk. It is lower in cholesterol and the fat globules are smaller which makes it easier to digest. Goat cheese gets its distinctive flavor from the unique fatty acids inherent in the milk, a delicate liquid that changes with the seasons and differs among the breeds. Six pounds of milk are required to make one pound of cheese.
Dairy goats are intelligent, gregarious, and gentle. A mature doe will often give birth to twins, milk for ten months out of the year and average 5-8 pounds of milk per day. As ruminants, goats forage, feeding on grasses, herbs, and hay in addition to grain. Goats are fastidious about clean and palatable food and enjoy feeding on brush and a wide selection of pasture plants. They are never tethered and enjoy wandering the countryside searching for fresh food.
Vermont and the surrounding region offer ideal conditions for producing high quality milk. The climate is temperate with snowy winters, wet springs and mild summers, all ideal for growing grass and lush pastures. The distinct flavor of the milk and cheese is reflected in the air, water, soil, and what the goats eat.
Vermont Butter & Cheese Co. is committed to building a network of local sustainable goat farms. Twice a week they drive across Vermont to the 20 Family Farms to pick up fresh goats’ milk. Cows’ cream and milk comes from a local Coop of 500 family dairy farmers in northern Vermont. Allison believes that pure milk makes the best cheese. Vermont land, the pasture, soil, the seasons, the special care of the goats and cows can all be tasted in their cheeses.