The story of Vermont Creamery is like a fairy tale.
Simply look at the photos of the dairy farm building where it all started, or of Allison Hooper, one of the founders, and her goats! It’s Vermont at its best: the green pastures, the red barns, the rolling hills, the peace and tranquility.
What a background for a wonderful story of innovation, creativity, perseverance and success!
The company’s success is undeniable. In 30 years, the company has won more than 100 awards at the most prestigious cheese competitions, its cheeses are on the best cheese boards and used by top chefs, and Allison Hooper was named to the Food & Wine/Fortune list of the “Most Innovative Women in Food and Drink” in 2015.
But like any business, it has been hard work, and success did not happen overnight. It took six years for the creamery to make a profit, and even longer to see significant growth. It also took years to design, finance and build the sophisticated creamery, to finalize the cheese recipe, and to set up the aging and packaging rooms the way they are today. And cheese-making itself is hard work, long hours and not many days off! After all, cows and goats don’t celebrate Thanksgiving or Christmas!
It’s a wonderful story though: one of people, creativity, connections and community.
You may already know the – so romantic – story of how Allison Hooper learned how to make cheese and how Vermont Creamery began. Allison had been studying French in Paris, and in her junior year, she had had an unpaid summer job on a Brittany dairy farm where they made cheese. That was all it took to ignite her passion! After graduation, she realized she wanted to go back to that farm and make cheese! (Hmm… being myself from Brittany, I’d love to visit that farm this summer!)
Come 1984, Allison is working as a dairy lab technician for the State of Vermont. Bob Reese – the co-founder of Vermont Creamery – is marketing director for the Vermont Department of Agriculture at the time. On that unforgettable day, he is organizing a state dinner where local products are featured, and the French chef is asking for fresh goat cheese (chèvre) for his signature lamb dish; hard for me (the French girl) to imagine that this is such a tough thing to find, but in the US in 1984, it actually was!
Bob reaches out to Allison, Allison makes the chèvre on the Brookfield farm where she was milking goats and it was such a success that they immediately decided to create the company, which at the time was called Vermont Butter & Cheese. The now-famous fresh chèvre was first made in the milk house on that farm in Brookfield.
Interestingly, Vermont offers ideal conditions for great milk and great cheese: a temperate climate, snowy winters, wet springs and mild summers make for lush pastures and nice grass that gives the milk and the cheese its rich flavor. It’s the terroir (sense and taste of a place) as the French like to call it.
Today, Vermont Creamery has a wonderful line of products, which make me feel like I am still living in France. They have of course those wonderful fresh goat cheeses, the wrinkled aged goat cheeses, but also delicious butters, crème fraiche, fromage blanc, and more…
They are also committed to supporting the local family farms and spreading the knowledge of cheese-making to the public and food professionals. They played a big role in the creation of the Vermont Cheese Council and the organization of its famous Cheesemakers’ Festival.
Their latest enterprise is not less fascinating: Vermont Creamery recently founded Ayers Brook Goat Dairy, the country’s first demonstration goat dairy farm, where they want to provide training, develop best management practices for the production of goat milk, among other things.
We can only wish them the best of success!
Vermont Creamery by the Numbers
- 30 +: number of years in business
- $6,000: the funds the co-founders started the company with
- 12: the number of Vermont goat farms providing goat milk to Vermont Creamery
- 425 +: the number of St. Albans Co-op dairy farms providing cows’ milk
- Around 80: the number of employees working at Vermont Creamery
- 100 +: the number of awards won
- 1 gallon: roughly the quantity of milk needed to make one pound of cheese. It’s also roughly the amount of milk produced by a goat daily. A cow – on the other hand – produces 8 to 10 gallons of milk a day.