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Start an Artisan Cheese Business

What is a Cheese Cave?

Getting Started in the Artisan Cheese Business

Are you one of those lucky people that either has a cow or goat dairy farm?  Have you ever considered of making artisan cheeses full time instead of selling your milk to a local cooperative?  Maybe you want to make cheese, but don't have the milk-producing animals.  In that case, a local dairy may consider selling their whole milk to you.  While this may seem like a pie-in-the-sky idea, more and more farmers (and a few cheese lovers) are discovering artisan cheeses.  This type of business is being spurred on by a market for these products from boutique restaurants in wine regions and other vacation areas.

Artisan Cheese Cave


Business Basics

It should go without saying that anyone who wants to start a business, any business, should have a business plan. When it comes to artisan cheeses, knowing how to make them is a pre-requisite. If you haven't the foggiest idea on where to start when it comes to starting a business, check out the Small Business Administration website. They have tons of information, forms and more to help you get started, and they also will meet you in person to help formulate your ideas too!

If you're already running a dairy business or have been toying with the idea of turning some of that excess milk into something that can be sold, you're in the expanding-a-business stage. My advice to anyone who wants to go down the artisan cheese business road is to start making road trips to visit creameries that make the artisan cheeses. Cultivate a few friends who are cheese makers and start collecting every book on the subject that you can.

Small Business Resources

Experience Counts

Do what you know and the money will follow. This is especially true in the cheese making business. There are people who are self-taught who have made a great go in this specialty market, and are turning a profit after only three years. Alternatively, if you have the funds, hire someone who knows the business and who can help you along. Not only will you need to learn the ins-and-outs of the business from a mentor, but you will also need to learn how to make the cheeses successfully and will need a specifically built cheese cave for your merchandise.

Check out your local colleges and universities for classes on cheese making. There are also a lot of good books and videos available on the Internet for those with the desire to learn.

Free Cheese Recipes

Cheese Making Resources

Food Processing: Inside a Cheese Cave

Cheese Caves

One of the most important things you'll need for your business is a cheese cave or, if you're financially rolling in the dough, a series of refrigerators that can be set to different temperatures for the curing process.

If you're one of the lucky few, you may live in an area where there are communal cheese caves. It costs around $3 million to build a warehouse-sized one, but if you live in Greensboro, Vermont for example, you can be part of the Jasper Hill cheese cave cooperative.

Personally, I live in a house that was built on a fieldstone foundation in 1846. My basement is a ready-made cheese cave, but I'm just a budding entrepreneur right now and haven't started scouting the area to build a separate one.

Food Inspections

In many states you can't operate a food business out of your home unless it measures up to certain standards.  Therefore, most people who run an artisan cheese business have a separate building and cheese cave for this purpose.  This makes it much easier to keep the health inspectors or agriculture product inspectors happy and you out of trouble.  Don't forget- before your business can be off and running (which means selling products), the inspection has to be done.  Check your state's website for information on how and when these inspections can be conducted for your business.

Cheese Cave Resources

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Marketing Your Cheese

Having a ready-made market is helpful, but not always necessary. The beauty of cheese is that most of it travels well and can probably reach any destination when packed properly. Since there is pressure to buy and sell locally, your closest customer may be a neighbor, a neighborhood restaurant or a local grocery store.

Again, check out the resources available to you from the Small Business Administration. Also grab a few copies of the regional magazines at your local newsstand. This will give you an idea of whom you can market your products to.


veryvermont on April 23, 2012:

does anyone know were a struggling entrapenur could find a passable 100 gal batch pasturizer, or at least the money to aquire one. or maybe even the method id use to take in a silent invester?

Sarah Kolb-Williams from Twin Cities on September 16, 2011:

I work as an incorporator, and I register a lot of businesses, but I don't recall working with such an interesting one! As a lover of fine cheeses myself, this is fascinating information. If I'm ever in town I might stop by to check out your cheese cave... :)

Charlotte Gerber (author) from upstate New York on June 17, 2010:

Hi Shanshane, I was hoping to get a building and equipment dedicated to cheesemaking, but NY is in the process of halting any efforts to drill for natural gas on the Marcellus shale/Utica shale. That would have given me the capital I needed to start my business. So I guess I'm in a holding pattern until they make up their minds about the drilling (we're sitting on a large pocket of the natural gas). It is easier to sell dairy products in NY if you have a building that is separate from other farm buildings- they heavily regulate and inspect dairy and egg products on a regular basis.

In the meantime, I'm going to start experimenting with goat cheese and possibly yogurt. There is a demand for these products at the upscale restaurants in the Fingerlakes region. We have a local cheese plant that makes a large variety of curds (which I LOVE), cheddar and mozzarella. I'd like to make and market cheeses that they don't make so we're not in competition with each other (eventually...!).

Milk around here is pretty plentiful (Southern Tier of NY). There are dairy farms everywhere, so finding milk is easy. We have Holsteins, Ayrshires, Jerseys and Gurnseys to choose from. The goats are beginning to be pretty plentiful too!

shanshane2 from Rochester, WA on June 16, 2010:

I was unlucky enough to end up in a cheese plant when I finished high school! My plan to become an army ranger was ended because of medical issues and I had to find a way to move out with my girlfriend and play house. (By the way, we have been together for 19 years now and have baby number 4 on the way now!) The cheese thing was something I despised initially and then I began to enjoy the manufacturing thing all together. At this point, I too am planning a small cheese plant. I do not have a farm, but I am hoping to secure some good jersey milk locally and trade a bit for taking waste water back to the farm. I really enjoy the art of cheesemaking and have made several stirred curd variaties, danish, string, mozz, havarti, cheddar and Parmesan. My inclination is to pasteurize and make some stirred curds so that I can sell them without too much aging, then begin to pepper in some good aged cheddar once I have consisten sales from the stirred curd. I would love to talk equipment with you if you want, I'm in the planning process of things right now and I'm really entertaining myself with all of the possibilities. Take care!

Charlotte Gerber (author) from upstate New York on June 01, 2010:

Hi Shanshane2, It is something we're seriously considering doing on our farm. We're aiming to be a self-sustaining farm business, but our time is divided seasonally between a fruit/veggie & egg biz in the summer and the syrup biz in the winter. The cheese could help fill the void in-between everything else! I plan on writing more about it after things settle down this summer. Thanks for stopping by!

shanshane2 from Rochester, WA on June 01, 2010:

Are you planning on diving into cheesemaking full time?

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