New Festival Celebrates Cheesemakers - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

New Festival Celebrates Cheesemakers

Shelburne, Vermont - August 23, 2009

More than 40 local cheesemakers showed off the wide variety of their products at the first-ever Vermont Cheesemakers Festival. From basic cheddar to more exotic specialty cheeses, visitors got to sample the finest flavors from the farm.

A thousand people drawn to the shores of Lake Champlain Sunday had one thing in common -- the love of cheese. "It's nirvana!" exclaimed Betsy Whyte of Burlington.

Shelburne Farms hosted the first-ever Vermont Cheesemakers Festival. "It's a great opportunity for us to expose our product to so many people at one time and in one place," said Galen Jones of Crowley Cheese. Crowley was one of about 50 artisan cheesemakers sharing their products -- with connoisseurs and consumers eager to learn something new.

For all the cheese I do eat it's amazing -- I'm still trying new stuff while I'm here," said Marie Thresher of Williston. "I do love cheese so I wanted to be here for all of this and just try all the different things and be a little bit braver than the usual cheddar. I love cheddar but I wanted to try some of the blue cheese and things I wouldn't normally go out of my way to try so this is a great opportunity to do that," Whyte said.

For a first-time event, organizers say they were surprised at the turnout. it sold out a thousand tickets at $20 apiece to visitors from as far away as Florida. I just decided I needed to know more about cheese and packed up and came and we are just thrilled," said Michele Greene, a chef in Atlanta. She says Georgia just doesn't have the variety of cheeses she's had here. "The difference between cows and sheep, goat, I didn't truly understand, but now as we sample, I can taste it."

Organizers say this a step toward marketing Vermont as a destination for food-based tourism. Allison Hooper, with the Vermont Butter and Cheese Company, calls Vermont "The Napa Valley of cheese." "Consumers are also very interested in who's making their food, how is it being made, is it safe, is it made with integrity, what are the animals eating? things we kind of took for granted 25 years ago and now it's a big deal," Hooper said.

Exploring local cheese -- from the festival to the farm.

Kate Duffy - WCAX News

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