One of the fastest growing niche ag businesses that I’m witnessing in my travels around the USA is that of artisanal cheeses, made in limited quantities with a high degree of handcrafting. A Cornell University dairy science professor, Frank Kosikowski, first started the movement in 1983 when he founded the American Cheese Society.
In the first year that someone bothered to count these cheese producers in 1990 there were 75. In the count in 2006 there were over 400.
Each year the Society has a cheese taste off with 200 producers from 30 states and Canada bringing in 1,208 different cheeses in 22 broad groups further subdivided into 88 categories. The largest number of producers were from WI, VT and CA.
The best of class was an aged Raclette made by Leelanau Cheese Company of Suttons Bay, MI (population 589), a small town just north of Traverse City, MI, along the shores of Lake Michigan.
Do you have any potential entrepreneurial cheese makers in your town? They could be on the cutting edge of an industry that is transforming just like wine did 30 years ago.