Awards in the cheesemaking business are something to celebrate, as every cheesemaker I’ve encountered through my years with Deli Market News have shown me the dedication, craftsmanship, and passion of this industry. So, of course, I was excited to learn that Michelle Rudolph, Co-Owner of Stepladder Farmstead Creamery, had received the 3rd Annual Jennifer Bice Artisan Dairy/Cheesemaker Grant Award.
“I started the Cheese Grant to encourage and support California cheesemakers and dairy producers in their quest of advancing and improving their businesses,” stated Bice, Founder of Redwood Hill Farm & Creamery, in a news release. “Small business ownership is no small feat and requires wearing many hats. Now retired from cheesemaking at Redwood Hill Farm & Creamery, I think it is important to help ensure the production of artisan, high-quality cheese which keeps more land in agricultural production. In addition, food security for our local communities becomes even more important in the face of climate change.”
Stepladder Farmstead Creamery began in 2015, when Rudolph and her husband Jack set out to make traditional, but innovative, small-batch cheeses with milk from their herd of LaMancha goats. Since the creamery’s inception, the herd has responsibly grown. This grant will allow the company to update its accommodations for its goats and achieve Certified Humane status for the farm.
“We put a huge emphasis on animal handling, welfare, and the ability for our animals to lead a natural life of browsing, kidding, and of course, giving us their milk,” remarked Rudolph. “We are so grateful to receive this incredibly generous award from Jennifer, which will allow us to refocus on our dedication to our animals and our ongoing goal of becoming one of just a few Certified Humane dairy goat farms in California and the United States.”
This is the third annual grant award of $10,000 that Jennifer Bice has offered as a means to support and mentor newer cheesemakers and dairy farmers in California. In 2006, Bice helped establish the California Artisan Cheese Guild and served as a founding board member. The grant award stipulates that the recipient be a CACG member and that funds be used for creamery or farm infrastructure, or for education that relates to improving farming or business practices.
This winter, Stepladder will build a new, 1,200-square-foot loafing barn, providing at least 18 square feet per doe. This will officially qualify the company for Certified Humane status.
View this post on Instagram
Head Cheesemaker & Herd Manager of Pennyroyal Farm and the first-ever winner of the Jennifer Bice Artisan Diary/Cheesemaker Grant Award, Erika McKenzie-Chapter, served on the CACG selection committee for this year’s award.
“Small producers often lack the funds for essential improvements, even when their businesses are thriving, due to the high cost/low return nature of dairy farming,” she explained. “Stepladder Creamery did a great job of presenting how the growth of their business has outpaced their ability to house the increased number of goats that growth relies on, and they provided a very thorough plan and budget for adding barn space to allow their herd size to grow without negatively impacting the living conditions of the animals.”
Congratulations to Stepladder Creamery on this achievement!