A departing cheesemaker reflects back
I came to Shelburne Farms as I was wrapping up my undergraduate degree in Nutrition and Food Sciences at UVM. I was labeling cheese and dipping waxed bars during “Senior Week”, the week between the end of classes and graduation. While speaking at the commencement ceremony, now Governor Phil Scott encouraged graduates to stay in Vermont post-graduation. He highlighted Vermont’s expertise in beer and cheese production as a plug for why graduates should choose to stay in the state. As a new hire in the artisan cheese world, I was beaming with joy and excitement for what was to come.
I was hired as an Operations Assistant. This position allowed me to learn about cutting blocks into smaller pieces, inventory, shipping, and other day-to-day activities involved in processing cheese and moving it out the door. Within my first year, I was asked to move into the position of Processing Coordinator. This meant I was deciding what needed to be cut and selecting batches of cheese to fill those inventory needs. I was also training to make cheese at this time, so when the position of Head Cheesemaker opened up, I took the opportunity to apply. The Head Cheesemaker role shifted my focus to the milk-to-cheese side of the operation. It also opened me up to the world of food safety and the requirements needed to produce a safe food.
For the last 2.5 years at the Farm, I have held the position of Creamery Manager. In this leadership role, I managed the seven other members of the Cheese Team, the Food Safety Plan, the inventory of all our storage coolers (which totals 250,000 lbs of cheese at any given time!), and everything in between. I am so grateful to have had such an incredible growth trajectory while at the Farm. To be able to learn about the nitty gritty at the operations level and progress through various positions to land at Creamery Manager has truly allowed me to learn every aspect of cheese production, from milk to consumer. The past 5 years have been dynamic, fast paced, challenging and wonderfully rewarding.
The Farm has contributed an incredible amount to both my professional and personal growth. Professionally, the Farm has helped me uncover my knack for leadership and management. I have grown to love public speaking and presenting to groups to share what we do at the Farm. I have taken professional development courses in various aspects of food safety and lean manufacturing. I made countless connections with other cheese professionals and food safety experts in the local food production world.
In terms of my personal growth, I have gained an incredible amount of confidence in myself and my abilities. With support from team members and managers at the Farm, I have learned to push myself out of my comfort zone in order to grow. I have also learned when to ask for help. I have learned the importance of team culture and how to lead a successful team. I have been able to make deep and meaningful connections with both the people and the place while at the Farm, and I am eternally grateful for the many ways that the Farm has influenced my life.
I have accepted a job at Rhino Foods as Quality Assurance Associate. I am looking forward to the opportunity to learn more about quality systems and food safety requirements on a larger scale. I am also excited to be furthering my career in Vermont food production. I thrive on learning and growing at a company whose values align with my own as well as broaden my horizons, and Rhino Foods fits that bill for me, just as the Farm did. I am looking forward to being a resource for the Cheese Team as I gain more experience in the field. I love the collaborative nature of food producers in Vermont, and I hope to continue to engage in new ways with this community throughout my career.