Date of Award

Fall 12-9-2014

Document Type



John Barlow

Amy Trubek

Project Description

Vermont is home to approximately 61 licensed cheese producers, who create over 150 varieties of cheese using the milk from cows, goats, and sheep (Vermont Agency of Agriculture Food & Markets 2013).1 Vermont cheese production ranges in size from a four cattle “farmstead operation” that creates a traditionally produced “artisan” cheese to a large dairy company that creates industrially produced cheese for a domestic and international market.

Artisan or artisanal designation signifies that the cheese is produced in part by hand, in small batches, and made using traditional forms of craftsmanship and technique. Farmstead cheese means the cheese is made on the same farm where the animals that supply the milk are raised and milked (American Cheese Society 2011).2 The opposite of artisanal cheese is “industrial cheese,” which is the mechanized cheesemaking process that happens in a cheese plant or creamery to produce cheese in mass quantities. Unlike artisanal cheese, industrially produced cheese is always pasteurized (Robinson and Wilbey 1998).

This study aims to explain how cow and goat dairy farmers (both farmstead and off-site producers) supplying milk to artisan cheesemakers in Vermont make decisions about farm management. Through personal narratives, perceptions and practices of herd and farm management procedures and protocols are explored.

I argue that the dairy farmers in this study are influenced to adopt certain farm management procedures based on two main reasons defined here as “factors” and “actors.” Factors are the farmers’ operational constraints and parameters. Actors are the individuals and organizations that directly influence farm and herd management practices. In this report, the factor and actor themes are broken into eight sub-themes to frame farmers’ narratives and provide valuable information about what people, organizations, and constraints shape their farm management decisions.