4207 McCausland Avenue
St. Louis MO 63109 314.517.4397
Cheezsorce is a division of
Sanitary Design Industries
Some Frequently Asked Questions (and the answers)
Q: I am a dairy farmer, and have seen the growth of farmstead cheese operations. I am also tired of milk prices going up and down. Where do I start?
Starting a farmstead dairy operation takes a considerable amount of planning and resources. CheezSorce, LLC advises that interested parties take a minimum of a year and investigate what is necessary for launching a business.
Get an idea of what type of facility would best suit your needs. Visit a minimum of three current cheese plants. Please be sure to call before hand and introduce yourself. Try and respect their time constraints and confidentiality.
Get an idea of how you are going to market your products. Visit at least three specialty cheese shops. Pastoral (Chicago), Larry’s Market (Brown Deer, WI), and Fromagination (Madison, WI) cater to great farmstead cheeses and are very generous in providing samples, and will answer questions. If you are in an area that has no cheese shops and farmers markets embrace the fact that you will be an exporter and your markets will be far flung.
Take some educational courses, and learn as much as you can in three critical areas before you start your business: cheese making, marketing, and business management for entrepreneurs.
Partner with a qualified consultant to provide objectivity and provide expertise in engineering, construction, air management, cheese make sheets.
Q: I have some equity in the farm, but are there grants and loans available to help me get started? How much will it cost me to get started?
Financing a farmstead cheese operation will require a minimum of $300-500,000 when taking into account construction, equipment, marketing, and all working capital costs for start-up. All finances should be planned well in advance of need so that grant and loan possibilities can be accessed as many sources of funds cannot be used if the project is already underway. A comprehensive Business Plan is required for virtually all grants and loans, and should outline 3-5 year schedule and financial projections. USDA Value Added Grants are available for farmers starting businesses. Many states also offer grants and low interest loans. It is critical to have a good bank to work with through various stages of growth.
Q: It seems like there are hundreds of cheeses/dairy products now. How can I compete with Kraft and others?
An artisan or farmstead dairy plant that tries to compete on the principal of lowest price (and therefore compete with Kraft and others) will fail. Large companies have developed production, market, distribution, and management efficiencies that allow them to sell inexpensive cheese. Your new dairy product will compete based on your “value proposition” to the consumer, and your ability to communicate that value proposition in the marketplace.
The Value proposition includes all of the components in your venture that makes your product special and valuable to consumers. The value price ratio determines how successful you will be, as Cheesemakers become more competent quality is going up but price is not. Consumers that believe in farmstead, organic, grass feed etc products may initially try a new product, but they will only become a loyal purchaser of the product if it tastes good.
Q: Local foods seems to be a big deal these days. How do I break into the local foods market?
Locally sourced food and knowing where your food comes from is one of the most popular consumer trends, topping organic, etc. Local is being defined in a number of different ways – USDA defines it as within 400 miles, or with state boundaries. Other sources define it within 100-200 miles (cite here). Some years ago CheezSorce coined the phrase “the urban Cheesemaker”, it still holds good, if you are within 80 miles of a major metropolitan area you are within the Agri-tourism radius, opportunities abound for connecting with clients and selling directly solidifying your position as local.
Locally produced and marketed dairy products can be presented to consumers in a number of ways, and these local markets can be more lucrative for the producer/cheesemaker. Farmer’s Markets & CSA’s are very popular for vegetable and fruit growers, with cheese, eggs, meat offering increasing leaps and bounds.
Selling to and co-marketing with local restaurants. Build an on-farm store to sell your products. Create an agri-tourism atmosphere and remember that location, service, product offerings are important.
Q: What kinds of conferences, events, or trainings should I go to too better understand how to be successful in the artisan cheese world?
The most important conference to go to for aspiring artisan and farmstead cheesemakers is the American Cheese Society conference. Now in its 26th year, the ASC conference is attended by the best US cheesemakers, retailers, and experts from around the country.
National and state food events are good venues for understanding trends and trying products.
The International Dairy, Deli, and Bakery Conference provides trends for both small and large companies.
The San Francisco and New York Fancy Food Shows are a great way to understand the trends and players on the West and East coasts.
If food service promises to be a market channel, the Chicago-based National Restaurant Association conference is a good event to meet hundreds of food service operators.
National Jersey Association run national conferences with dairy competitions.
Westin A. Price
Acres USA and the like are all hold highly effective conferences and offer excellent networking opportunities.
In general, even the smallest farmstead cheesemaker needs to budget time and resources to attend 1-2 conference or workshop events per year.
Q: I’m done with research where do I go to Finalize my proposal?
If you need help, we would be happy to serve you. Please do not hesitate to contact us.