More cheese, please. This is one statement that was on the tips of everyone’s tongues last week, as the industry convened for the 39th Annual American Cheese Conference. Networking opportunities were aplenty, and several leading makers took home the coveted awards from the ACS Judging & Competition.
“The ACS Judging & Competition is truly a celebration of American artisan cheese,” said American Cheese Society (ACS) Executive Director, Tara Holmes. “We are grateful to all of the cheesemakers who entered and know that this event elevates our industry and the quality of the products our member’s produce.”
Over 1,000 attendees showed out, with 148 companies partaking in sponsorship, exhibition, and Meet the Cheesemakers.
More than 35 sessions, tours, and more were on the docket for this highly anticipated show, which took place July 20–23 in Portland, Oregon. The event kicked off with four simultaneous excursions for attendees to choose from: the Artisan Cheese Food Safety Workshop and tours in Portland, Willamette Valley wine country, and Salem, Oregon. The day concluded with a reception and an iconic cheese crawl to make anyone not in attendance jealous.
Days two, three, and four welcomed networking salons and supporting trade tables, allowing attendees to mingle with each other and showcase what’s new. Tasting sessions began shortly after the show floor opened up, in addition to Going Organic: What it Means to You, Philosophy Behind the Farm: A Panel of Diverse Small Ruminant Operations, and CODE RED: Climate Change and the Dairy Industry: Greenhouse Gas Emissions. The event even pointed the spotlight at the Canadian Cheese Collective for some insights from our Northern neighbors.
Among the other exciting events were a retailer networking opportunity, a session on the history and legacy of women in dairy, and an awards reception and ceremony. The ACS even hosted a 5k run/walk event for attendees.
The ceremony unveiled the results of a competition held on May 19–20 in Minneapolis, MN, following with accolades on July 21 in Portland, OR, with Jasper Hill Farms’ Raclette-style Whitney cheese nabbing first place as the Best of Show. Of the 1,387 entries at the event, 380 awards were given. Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, Goat Rodeo Farm & Dairy, and Murray’s Cheese were also among the Best of Show winners.
“I think that we’re at an inflection point in our industry,” said Mateo Kehler, Cheesemaker at Jasper Hill Farms. “We’ve been through so much the past few years, and this for us [winning Best of Show] is just epic. It is our opportunity to push the boundaries in our market to win new consumers. I would call you all to that effort. I think that when we win consumers for specialty cheese, whether it’s a Whitney, or any of the amazing cheeses that you produce, we all win, and we can all win together.”
All in all, the in-person return to this annual conference was a huge success. As I’ve learned from my conversations with industry members, the ACS Conference is a singular event not to be missed by American cheesemakers. But, if you couldn’t attend this year, there’s always 2023!
Be on the lookout for more industry news as DMN continues to report.