Peggy Galloup, head cheesemaker and farm manager at Hildene in Manchester, adores her goats. “We take extremely good care of our girls,” she said, as a fluffy herd of impossibly cute kids approached us. It was spring on the farm — kidding season — and Galloup was busier than usual, attending to birthing mothers, bottle-feeding the newborns, and milking the herd so she could make her award-winning chevre. Later, she would guide about 36 goats and kids into a rolling pasture overlooking the Green Mountains, where, “the kids will do the milking for us and the mothers will get to bond with their babies,” Galloup explained.
Hildene Farm is one of the stops along the Vermont Cheese Trail. There are 46 cheesemakers in the state, producing approximately 150 varieties of some of the best artisan cheeses in the world. Visit local farmer’s markets throughout the state and you’re likely to see a selection of these hand-crafted cheeses. Or, better yet, go to the source. Forty-three cheesemakers are listed on the trail, and 12 of these are open to the public. (The others are open by appointment or for special tours.) With map in hand, downloaded at www.vtcheese.com, we visited five cheesemakers in south-central Vermont. The best thing about this tour: We not only sampled a variety of fabulous cheeses and learned about the cheesemaking process, but we met passionate and creative artisans, stayed at two lovely inns, and took in some of Vermont’s beautiful farmland-to-mountains scenery.
TIP: The annual Vermont Cheesemakers Festival will be held July 20 at Shelburne Farms, with more than 40 cheesemakers and 200 products to sample and purchase. Other specialty food producers, local distillers, breweries, and wineries will also be on hand. www.vtcheesefest.com
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