History of Cheesemaking

  • Our first cheesemaker, Bill Clapp, hooping the cheddar in the original make-room at the dairy, c.1985.

We’ve been making cheddar at Shelburne Farms for more than 30 years. After first bottling and selling raw milk from our Brown Swiss herd, we realized that we needed to make a value-added farm product, and our farmhouse cheddar was born.

Our first “make room” in the early 1980s was at the Dairy. It was about half the size of our current facility. Bill Clapp and Marshall Webb, our first cheesemakers, practiced and experimented with our recipe. Bill developed our first cheddar rating system based on variables in the milk and make process. We still use a rating system to determine how long to age each batch of cheese. We sold our cheese wholesale, then our first full-color, holiday mail-order catalog hit mailboxes in 1985.

In 1993, we renovated the Farm Barn to include new cheesemaking and processing facilities, as well as the McClure Center for Education. The move was strategic: it gave visitors and students greater access to cheesemaking, so they could see their direct connections to the land. Many accomplished cheesemakers have learned their art in our make room, and we’re proud to have given them their start. Today, we have three cheesemakers and three staff coordinating sales and shipping.

Although the operations have changed a bit, the recipe and practice for great farmhouse cheddar remains the same: start with great fresh milk!