Jon's got a great team out at Taylor Farm, thanks for the hospitality everyone!
You know you’re in VT when you show up at a small farm, immediately meet the farmer’s sister, get whisked into the family’s kitchen, across the dining room and onto the couch next to the fire. That’s exactly what happened to me at Taylor Farm. While Sweetbreads was absorbing Peter Dixon's cheese knowledge a few miles up the road, I was hanging out at Taylor Farm on the couch with owner Jon Wright. Pretty sweet. I’m kind of digging this “farm research” lifestyle.
We first met Jon Wright while we were volunteering at the VT Cheesemakers Festival earlier this summer. Our introduction was preceded by just about every cheesemaker we met saying, “Oh, you want to start a creamery, you should really talk to Jon at Taylor Farm, his booth is right outside...”. Thankfully we heeded the advice and four months later I was sitting on his couch.
The amazingly well-stocked Farm Store at Taylor Farm
When Milk Won't Pay the Bills
Jon’s story is not too dissimilar from a lot of farmers around the country. Seeking a sustainable life on the family farm with his dairy cows Jon decided to take over the family business. Realizing that commodity milk prices weren’t going to cut it, he got into the cheese business. Cheese is a fantastic way to add value to a commodity product and Jon realized that early on. This was well over a decade ago. Taylor Farm traces its cheese roots to among the first handful of cheese manufacturers in VT. Today there’s over FIFTY, and that’s in no small part due to the effort that Jon put in to developing the industry. Now VT is a bastion for aspiring cheesemakers and an example of local production that will hopefully be replicated across the country.
After a brief stay on the couch we took a tour of the property and the facilities. Throughout the tour about twenty or thirty customers came and went from the farm store. The majority knew Jon by name and they quickly (or not so quickly) exchanged stories and caught up on local news. One thing was clear, the community really values Taylor Farm and the variety of local products in the farm store.
New barn construction at Taylor Farm
Are You Sure You Want to Be A Farmer?
Eventually we ended up in Jon’s office in the attic above the farm store. Here’s where the rubber met the road. During our farm visits I always like to hear the trials and tribulations. It helps keep my bucolic farm dreams in check (although not well enough apparently!). Jon recounted the story of last winter’s record snows and the collapse of his big barn. Employees dug or were pulled out. Animals were sold out of necessity. One died. Finances got tight (as if they weren’t tight enough already). And yet they found a way out and the Taylor Farm team is slowly rebuilding. This was the second barn collapse and there were other tales of hard times quick to follow. I appreciated Jon’s honesty and his openness, it’s not easy to talk about the hard times, especially when it impacts you, your family, your employees, your animals and your business.
Good thing the sobering discussion ended with a good sampling of Jon’s award-winning Gouda and some of his sister Mimi’s zucchini bread! Thanks to Jon and the family at Taylor Farm, and if you’re in the VT area get out there and get some gouda, you can’t beat it!
Roosters got nextNatural rind gouda in the aging roomEvery wonder how those cool waxed cheeses got that way? Just a couple dips