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Room and board. That is all Allison Hooper was looking for when, as an American college student in France in the late 70s, she began writing letters to organic farmers, asking if they could use a little help. Never mind that she had no farm experience. Shed work hard and learn quickly – that was her offer. A family in Brittany answered her letter, inviting her to join them on their farm and at their table. Allison was soon enjoying not only the satisfaction of working the land, but a full-fledged education in the European tradition of artisanal cheesemaking.
On a path through the gentle French countryside, Allison had found her calling. That path was about to cross with another. Bob Reese was in a bind. As marketing director of the Vermont Department of Agriculture in the early 80s, he was organizing a special state dinner. The details were coming together, save one. The French chef needed goat cheese – scarce in Vermont at the time. Bob knew just the person to call, a state dairy lab technician who would spent some time in France. Allison Hooper. She could make chèvre, could not she? Indeed she could. And indeed she did. Allisons chèvre was the buzz of the banquet. By the time the tables were cleared, she and Bob were planning a cheesemaking partnership.
Launched in 1984, Vermont Butter and Cheese Company still follows the path Bob and Allison took years ago – crafting artisanal dairy products in the European style through a vital link with local farms. Based in the town of Websterville, the company supports a network of more than 20 family farms, providing milk meeting the highest standards of purity. While Vermont Butter and Cheese Company has earned worldwide recognition, the company is proudest of its contribution to the health of local agriculture. After all, as Allison learned on a family farm in France, quality originates at the source – with the people who work the land and the pride they take in the yield.