Farmers don’t get off the farm that much, but when they do, they relish the connections they make with Cabot fans on travels all over the U.S. — even the world!
We collected just a few of those stories prompted by Blake Gendebien of Twin Mill Farms in Ogdensburg, NY. “I can’t help but notice how many stories from my friends and family are wrapped around lasting friendships and conversations that start by talking about Cabot cheese,” Blake said.From right nearby to the world over, Cabot farmers are making connections through delicious dairy. Click To Tweet
Such connections are special wherever they happen, but the joy is amplified when they are a little unexpected and happen “west of the Mississippi or on vacation anywhere,” he continued. “My sister who lives in Las Vegas is often asked about where to find Cabot cheese!”
Two members of the Duffy family of Great Brook Farm in Carlisle, MA shared tales of cheese-lovers encountered both near and far. Mark Duffy recalls being in the airport in Hong Kong when fellow travelers noticed his Cabot plaid bag and volunteered that they were big fans. “Once they heard we were farmer-owners, they said they would have to start buying even more,” he said happily.
Closer to home, his daughter Marlow was sampling cheese in Boston when an Amish family caught her attention. “Since they had their hands full with children,” she recalled, Marlow headed over to them to hand-deliver some Cabot single-serve snack packs. “While chatting, they told me they have cousins who farm in New York State and supply milk to Cabot,” she said.
Amanda Freund of Freund’s Farm in East Canaan, CT has a bad habit (or good, we think) of rearranging the Cabot cheeses in the dairy section of every grocery store she visits. Not that long ago, she was in a store about 45 minutes away from the farm and reached in to pull a two-pound block of pepper jack to the front of the shelf. When she saw the packaging, “I shrieked,” she recalled, “causing the couple next to me to jump back. They hesitantly approached me, thinking something was very wrong.”
Wordlessly, Amanda pointed to the label, which, to her own pleased surprise, bore her face and that of her sister. It turned out one member of the couple volunteered with a local community health organization that connects inner-city residents with local food, including growing their own. “She was excited to meet a local farmer,” Amanda said, and they exchanged contact information to arrange an educational farm tour for her organization. (Amanda noted that she bought a full case of pepper jack as gifts for friends and family and when her mom, Theresa, returned a month later to buy another case, a store employee said, “Oh, I heard about you, you’re the farmers on the label!”)
Amanda also shared another small cheese-world experience. At a conference she attended several years ago, she met, Danielle, a PhD student from North Carolina State who was admirably earning her degree in pharmacology and her veterinary medicine simultaneously. The two stayed in loose touch via social media but had not chatted directly until a few weeks ago when she texted Amanda to say she had spied a Cabot van in a store parking lot in North Carolina. “She was not expecting me to know exactly who was driving that van,” Amanda said, but, of course, the co-op farmer community is small, and Amanda knew it was Allison Akins of Five Mile Farm in Lisbon, NY in her traveling cheese ambassador role. “We exchanged numbers by text and Allison connected with Danielle for some #farmlove and cheese sharing,” Amanda said with satisfaction.
Our next story comes from Denise Barstow of Barstow’s Longview Farm in Hadley, MA. Every year, Denise recounted, the farm takes part in the local Memorial Day parade, tossing Cabot single-serve samples off a float. “The parade, not big, not flashy, but as townie as it gets,” she said. “If you’re not in it, you’re watching! The streets are lined with locals in lawn chairs, everyone waving at the passing floats and kids collecting candy thrown from the floats.”
The first year the Barstow crew threw cheese into the mix was to celebrate their farm’s bicentennial birthday in 2006. The first few tosses went to some adults without kids, and assuming it was candy, they didn’t budge. “‘It’s cheese!’ we hollered from the float. ‘Cheese!?’ they yelled back tripping over themselves to get down to the road’s edge. The whole route was like that, the farmers yelling ‘Cheese!’ and the spectators yelling back, ‘Cheese!?’ to confirm.” It’s become a parade tradition at this point, Denise said with a laugh. “We have the town trained. They see the Barstow’s float coming and get to their feet hollering, ‘Cheese!’ And we get stopped all year: on our way to vote, in the grocery store, at the bank or the post office with thanks for the cheese at the parade.”
And last, but by no means least, a trio of connections shared by Jenni Tilton-Flood of Flood Brothers Farm in Clinton, ME who has traveled to New York City several times with a group of Cabot farmers. There, she has taken full advantage of getting to know the locals which, as is often the case in big cities, includes folks who hail originally from all over the world.
During one visit, Jenni struck up a conversation with a sharply dressed student of political science working as a cab driver to support his studies and his family. Born in the midst of conflict in their home of Ghana, the young man’s mother had heard of the passing of Nobel Peace Prize winner, Anwar Sadat, and named her son after him thinking that “it would be a good thing for the world to have another.” As Anwar drove Jenni, the two shared cheese and stories of their lives. He confided that what he misses most is the community that Ghana offers; he has found that city life is often too busy to stop and be part of a greater family. Jenni, in turn, explained what it means to be part of the Cabot farm family, which Anwar appreciated very much.
Another cab connection came when Cabot farmers spreading the cheese love in the Big Apple were standing in front of Metropolitan Museum of Art. Rachel, a cab driver, pulled over and jumped out of her cab to say thanks for her favorite cheese, which she has been eating for 20 years. “We gave her cheese and coupons and finally convinced her that we very much appreciated her thanks and, in fact, we had traveled all the way from our farms to the city to say thank you to people like her!” Jenni explained.
It was on another such trip to NYC that Jenni met Thiam from Senegal while taking a stroll in Bryant Park. “Thiam actually spends his days working in Bryant Park as a horticulturist,” Jenni explained, but he was a dairy farmer back home. Over his 20 years in New York, he has returned a few times to Senegal, and he told Jenni he misses his cows and the open landscape. “I’m just a Cabot farmer so I can’t magic someone to where they want to be,” Jenni reflected, “but I can sit down next to someone, give them some cheese and share pictures on my phone of my cows and the green grass of my home: a Cabot farmer from Maine and a dairy farmer from Senegal sitting on a bench in Bryant Park, eating cheese, homesick for their cows.”
Each of these connections—whether fostering ties within a farmer’s own community or expanding the Cabot community around the country and even the globe—is precious. As Jenni put it so well, “Cabot knows that being the World’s Best is about getting to know the world.”
Have you had a chance encounter with a Cabot farmer or employee out there in the world that added a personal story to your favorite dairy products? Tell us about it!