I think we can all agree that these past eight months have been a challenge to us all. On a multitude of levels, the pandemic has greatly affected our lives. While it is easy to get caught up in the trials that we have experienced, this week I would like to focus on the story of a resilient family farm and the positive influence of your partnership with Farmers To You during these trying times.
Each of our partner farmers has been no exception to the times; they each have had to make many difficult decisions regarding their land, animals and employees. One of our original partner farms, Jasper Hill Farms and Cellars personally experienced drastic changes at the start of the pandemic. Eighty percent of their sales disappeared overnight.
Jasper Hill Farms and Cellars produces award-winning cheese with milk from their herd of cows alongside two other neighboring dairy farms. If you haven’t experienced their cheese through purchasing it from Farmers To You, it is likely you have enjoyed it on a cheese plate at a restaurant or at least seen it on display at your local artisan cheese shop. The owners, and their staff, took drastic measures to survive along with their two community milk suppliers so that they could continue to.
The founders of Jasper Hill Cellars, Andy and Mateo Kehler’s situation is representative of a lot of our farmer and producer partners. Small family farms and businesses often depend on a small group of customers to support their operations, and their continued success in these times is a testament to their ability to refocus and adjust in a way that stays true to their values. The changes that Jasper Hill Cellars made speaks to their creativity, resilience and says volumes about their values.
Mateo Kehler, co-owner of Jasper Hill Cellars, told us about how difficult the early days of the pandemic were. “We were losing chefs and restaurants, some of our biggest champions, as they were forced to close.” He expounded upon this idea stating, “On top of that, consumer shopping habits shifted overnight. Not only did consumers not want to shop grocery aisles and make impulse buys for specialty items like cheese, but they were also looking to stock up more and that’s just not possible for many cheese varieties.”
Mateo explained to me that Jasper Hill Cellars was forced to change its business model pivoting to grow their sales online. Fortunately, this meant that online sales to customers in a single week went from 50 orders each week to 1,200 orders! Parallel to its online sales growing rapidly to the point where it made up half of their total sales, Farmers To You saw an influx also. Our weekly growth came with an increase in cheese consumption. A note that both Andy and Matteo spoke to alongside their deep gratitude for the Farmers To You partner families and their consistent weekly orders.
Before their online sales jumped, however Mateo had to make a series of difficult decisions to address the lack of orders. When the business suddenly needed less milk, the team at Jasper Hill Cellars chose to prioritize their two, small neighboring partner farms in Greensboro and instead dispersed their original herd of cows. They also redirected staff from cheesemaking work to cutting, wrapping and fulfillment. These decisions placed people’s livelihood at the forefront and now months later they are stronger in spirit.
Jasper Hill Farm and Cellars’ story of resilience does not stand alone and I look forward to sharing more from our partnered farmers and producers. In the weeks to come, I hope to illustrate how your purchasing decisions impact so many people, communities and family farms and businesses.
Out of appreciation for your support, starting today we are partnering with Jasper Hill Cellars to give a few lucky people four award-winning cheeses along with a beautiful slate cheese board to go with them. And by Lucky I mean you’ll need to win a contest on Instagram. However, if you’re not the gambling type you can also purchase your own Jasper Hill holiday cheese board or other small batch cheeses from Farmers To You.
I hope this note has made you hungry for delicious Vermont cheese. Remember not only do you get to enjoy these incredible craft products – but you are also supporting the craftspeople and farmers who carry on this Vermont Tradition!
Thank you for supporting our (your!) farmer and producer partners.