Introducing Jack Duncan, new head cheesemaker
A food science graduate of UVM like his fellow cheesemakers Maddy and Morgan, Jack has taken over the reins as head cheesemaker at the Farm. We asked him to reflect on his new role.
The job: I oversee everything that has to do with the cheesemaking. That means taking a step back to look at the larger picture: working with all the cheesemakers, tracking cheese quality, examining trends and looking at cheesemaking year round. And I’m still making cheese at least two days a week so I’m still very involved.
As head cheesemaker, I have more opportunities to speak to visitors and that’s been fantastic. It’s what Shelburne Farms is about – that engagement – sharing the importance of sustainable farming and making food that’s true to place. That’s something I’m very passionate about and I really love seeing that same excitement in visitors.
Favorite aspect of cheesemaking: Packing [piling the curds into two rows after draining]. It’s quiet in the room and you’re usually alone and in the moment, elbows deep in the cheese. And if you have music going it’s nice. It’s a physical workout as well.
Preferred music in the make room: I’m originally from Atlanta so I have an affinity for southern hip hop, especially OutKast. Usually the lead cheesemaker is DJ for the day, but when two people are working together, you just tend to find a playlist or a radio station that you both like. I think it’s important for cheesemakers to be having fun. Just like happy cows make good milk, happy cheesemakers make great cheese!
Most looking forward to: I’m really excited to spend time milking with the dairy team, and learning from Sam, Renee, Mo, and Megan. They’re such a wealth of knowledge. And it all starts with them. We can’t make good cheese without fantastic milk.
Most inspired by: I love the culture of food in Vermont, and how important high quality local food is to the state. And there’s no better place for that than at Shelburne Farms. It’s one of the best, most consistent cheesemakers in the state, and we really highlight taste of place with our raw milk cheddar and sustainable grazing practices. Being around so many tastemakers is a very unique Vermont experience. I try not to take it for granted.