|If a Cheesemaker ever gets a chance to reflect on the entire year, it probably occurs during the quietest time of activity, maybe February and March, that dormancy before the spring when the new energy launches another season.So what of the autumn? With the rush up to the holiday/entertainment season hitting maximum intensity and replacing the ebb of summer business, Autumn requires serious thought about what will happen to milk that is produced during this season. Milk that is too late to be made into fresh product for Christmas, or that is wanted as cheese for the first quarter of the Calendar year. Autumn (leading into Winter) is often the period when Cheesemakers make the most wonderful cheese,so don’t short change it. This is the cheese that is almost certainly going to become cheese aged for 6 months or more, the mature cheese for the summer farmers markets, OR those really grand cheeses that are one year old for the most discerning Christmas table.
1. Make sure that all the equipment is working well, and minds are on the job.
2. This is often the time when the “Cheesemaker” is being pulled away to promote, (entertain actually) those folk who are being well primed to spend money during the festive season. Promote your brand!
3. Consider your staff and daily operations: Who will make those ever important decisions, the day to day tweak, a recalled nuance from one or two years before? Who has the institutional memory that will ensure your now established and esteemed brand will be represented by the consistent quality it has become renown for? goes on when nothing is happening?
4. Make plans for the Spring: building plans, plans for replacing or improving equipment, new products, new marketing materials, etc.
5. Slow down, take pride in your craft and perfect it.
With the peak summer season behind us (and and next year’s seemingly so far ahead) it is easy not to give full credence to every act we perform on the milk. Taking time to consider this is wise.
Making autumn cheese is a special time that requires the best cheesemaker–routine, disciplined, thoughtful and knowledgeable. This is not the time time to put an intern in charge. (Nothing against interns. They are a highly dutiful group of people who do their internships with enthusiasm and passion, but they are in the learning stage of their career). Most owners, though, are much more invested in every aspect of their business. They understand milk paid for, wages and or labor spent, balanced against the need to be in two places at one time. They understand the value of the cheese being made at this time and the importance of planning for the future. Interns are perfectly fit for those summer fresh cheese makes that are out in a few days, get immediate feedback from the market, then move on to the next learning experience.
Autumn cheese making is not the right job for the part-timer. This is the job and role of seasoned Cheesemakers who can be relied on.
It’s not just the cheese; it’s the whole process. From cow to the next day courier, cheese making takes a team. Final tip: Putting the best Cheesemaker you have on the job won’t save you if the milking machine isn’t clean. The best cheesemaker should be in charge all year long. That’s right, nobody will check that pipe line and receiver jar like the seasoned Cheesemaker, and if it isn’t clean now, it’s a double down on the boss to make sure that everything is working like it should.
Business complexity sometimes escapes us. Even the very small business often has a complex mix of products, changing throughout the year to meet opportunity. It’s important to use every season to seize that opportunity and plan for the next.
Dairy Technologist and President