William Townsend, a dairy farmer and cheesemaker in Vergennes, Vermont, was ahead of his time. In 1839 Townsend, who began producing cheese on his farm in 1828, wrote a book titled The Dairyman‚??s Manual: Containing Some of the Most Important Processes from the Best Sources for Making Butter and Cheese. Townsend offered the following explanation for why he wrote his book: ‚??Is it not a fact that successful dairying (that is, cheesemaking and buttermaking) requires more skill, regularity and order, than any other branch of the farming interest? And is it not a fact that our farmers generally are in want of information and rules for every day use and reference on this important subject, and that too, in a condensed form and always at hand. There can scarcely be two opinions upon this question. Therefore, the appearance of this book. . . . Our desire is to diffuse knowledge and elevate the character of our dairies, and our effort has been to merit the favorable notice of the public, and render this little work a necessary inmate of every well regulated farm-house.‚?Ě Townsend understood that quality was key to the future of farmstead cheesemaking in Vermont, and that sound technical knowledge combined with craftsmanship was the key to attaining such quality. In his book Townsend cataloged proven practices that had been developed by successful cheesemakers like himself through years of experience. He also championed the integration of new technologies, such as the routine use of the thermometer, into the craft of cheesemaking.
What Townsend couldn‚??t have foreseen in 1839 was that the factory system of production (the first cheese factory began producing cheese in 1851), combined with rapid advances in technical knowledge, would soon transform cheesemaking in ways unimaginable at the time. Farmstead cheesemaking became a casualty of that transformation and virtually disappeared from the American scene by the end of the 19th century. Industrial cheesemaking was here to stay.
When I joined the faculty at the University of Vermont almost 20 years ago, cheesemaking in my mind occurred in highly automated factories on a large scale. I had little interest in, or regard for, farmstead cheesemakers or the newly established American Cheese Society, the brainchild of my Ph.D. mentor, Professor Frank Kosikowski. So why have I spearheaded this book? Because I have changed. Years of interacting with farmstead cheesemakers in Vermont and watching them succeed brilliantly, as they demonstrated to the world that there is a place for farmstead artisan cheesemaking in America, slowly but inexorably opened my eyes and profoundly changed my perspective. I have come to understand, appreciate, and embrace Frank Kosikowski‚??s vision for traditional cheesemaking and cheese appreciation in America. This book is a celebration of Kosikowski‚??s vision.
But this book is more than a celebration. The American cheesemaking scene is changing and presenting new challenges to the burgeoning field of American farmstead cheesemakers. The quality expectations of the market and the regulatory requirements are becoming more demanding, and there is an ever-growing need for technical resources that are written specifically for farmstead cheesemakers and tailored to their particular needs. Like William Townsend, I see a ‚??want of information and rules for every day use and reference on this important subject.‚?Ě My sincere hope is that this book, like Townsend‚??s manual in his time, earns the right to become ‚??a necessary inmate of every well regulated farm-house.‚?Ě
Paul S. Kindstedt