Nestled in Southern Vermont, historic Grafton Village has aged to perfection, just like the cheese that is still made here, a tradition since 1892.
But Grafton Village Cheese almost failed, along with the town in the 1960's. That's when the Windham Foundation bought the business, along with the historic Grafton Inn.
"When the foundation founded the cheese company, the village was 100 people and falling down and now the village is a vibrant place with population of about 600 people," said the Windham Foundation's Bob Allen.
Any profits from Grafton Village Cheese go towards creating jobs in rural communities. "I think it's a real incentive to buy," Allen said.
All of Grafton Village Cheeses are hand made with raw milk -- aged cheddars have always been their specialty.
"We don't do any separating or standardizing of our milk, so the farm's milk changes and the cheese changes from make to make, and we need the cheese makers to recognize that -- it's not just standardized milk and push a button," said Grafton Cheese's Dane Huebner.
Grafton Village Cheese is the second largest cheese operation in Vermont, next to Cabot, and it hit 8-million dollars in sales last year. The cheese maker also has a plant in Brattleboro. Although Grafton Village specializes in aged cheddar, consumer tastes are branching out and so is this business.
They are now producing 10 artisan cheeses -- part of the "Cave-Aged" line. "The cave-aged are cheeses aged in the open air so they're allowed to breath and the flavors are allowed to concentrate," Huebner said.
By changing the temperature, humidity and mold levels in the caves, or aging rooms, Grafton can make unique variates.
One of their newest cheeses, Leyden, won Silver Finalist for Outstanding Cheese in the 2012 sofi Award for the Specialty Food Trade, Inc. The cheese is a hybrid between cheddar and gouda and is spiced with cumin. "It's a traditional Dutch cheese from Holland, but ours is made in Vermont," Huebner said.
"Vermont is all about quality. In the cheese business it's about small family farms, not large farms you see in the Midwest," Bob Allen said.
And even with the new types of cheeses, Grafton Village Cheese is sticking to its made in Vermont roots.
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