The plan was to reopen this spring.
Angela Miller of Consider Bardwell Farm in West Pawlet was on track to re-launch her cheesemaking operation right around now. Then the COVID-19 outbreak happened, and everything changed.
Miller is a literary agent who began her award-winning, raw-milk goat and cow cheese farm in 2004 with her husband, Russell “Rust” Glover.
As small businesses around Vermont and the United States are struggling to stay afloat during the coronavirus pandemic, Miller’s troubles started long before the virus arrived.
A Recall, Financial Pressures, and COVID-19
Until last fall, Consider Bardwell Farm was producing 120,000 pounds of cheese annually and employed 20 people. Then in September, cheese distributed in five states was voluntarily recalled for possible Listeria contamination. No illnesses were reported.
Miller had to cease operations, lay-off employees, sell her beloved goats, and destroy 3,000 wheels of cheese. Over the past several months, she’s been working to reopen on a smaller scale. Now, she must wait out the pandemic.
Miller continues to work as a literary agent, a job that has been a saving grace over the past six months. Her biggest lesson? Survival.
“You can survive. I see what happened as a tragedy, and you can survive tragedy,” she says. “My whole psychological outlook is really affected by this pandemic. It’s something that’s never happened, to this extent, in my world. I do think it will change things radically, and I don’t know how. I’m still hoping we can start up again, but it’s going to be a whole new world.”
An Online Cheese Directory
As a whole, Vermont’s $650 million cheese industry is feeling the effects of the pandemic. According to the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, food producers have been impacted by the sudden and almost complete market shutdown due to COVID-19.
Cheese producers are in a slightly different situation than other specialty food producers in that the products they make are not shelf-stable, and in most cases have been made months or years prior in anticipation of sales.
Marty Mundy, executive director of the Vermont Cheese Council, says that selling cheese products online or through specialty and artisan food store websites is providing some hope for cheesemakers. A new online Vermont cheese directory was recently launched to allow consumers to:
-Purchase cheese directly from a cheesemaker, if the producer has an online shop
-Find shops that offer Vermont cheeses in the New York City and Boston areas, as well as a few other locations around the U.S.
You can visit vtcheese.com to find the online directory and support Vermont cheesemakers.
Eventually, I hope to buy cheese from Consider Bardwell Farm and support them, too.
Happy Vermont Podcast
In Episode 4, Angela Miller talks candidly about the devastation her farm faced last fall, her efforts to reopen, and how she’s finding her way through the COVID-19 crisis.
Please email ideas or feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for listening.
Special thanks to Pluck for podcast editing and post-production.