The Specialist Cheesemakers Association represents artisan cheesemakers to Government bodies and aims to promote excellence in British cheesemaking and raise its profile. They also advise cheesemakers on legislation, best practice, microbiology and food safety. Randolph helped to form the organisation in 1989 and was its first chairman, returning as chairman again between 2002 and 2010.
The Specialist Cheesemakers Association has worked with SALSA to set up a cheese-specific food standard which cheesemakers can be audited against. This means that they are asked to meet relevant and meaningful criteria without overburdening paperwork but still meeting the requirements to provide due diligence records.. The scheme also allows for a cheesemaker to be mentored by a knowledgeable dairy consultant to help develop a simple, effective and efficient quality system.
In 1970 a group of cheesemakers in Ireland began to make cheese on the farm, a big contrast to the larger scale factory cheeses that were the only types made before then. In 1983 CAIS was formed to promote and help these farm cheeses become established, prosper and encourage new cheesemakers. Among the founding cheesemakers were the Steele family, the Ferguson family and the Willems whose cheeses Milleens, Gubbeen and Coolea we have been selling since the early 80s.
We have exported cheese to the USA since the 1990s and through our work out there have got to know some of the artisan cheesemakers making farm cheese. The American Cheese Society is a non profit organisation that promotes farmstead American cheese and includes cheesemakers, retailers and academics who are all committed to developing a home grown artisanal cheese industry.
Ivan Larcher is a French cheese consultant who has made cheese all over the world and who offers technical advice and consultancy to many of our suppliers. His help has been particularly invaluable to cheesemakers making continental style cheeses which we in the UK have less knowledge about.
The School of Artisan Food exists to teach all aspects of artisan food production. It offers a unique opportunity for people of all skill levels to expand their knowledge through Demonstrations, short courses, and, from 2010, a Degree in Artisan Food. It is set on the Welbeck Estate, where Stichelton is made and the school and its founders are passionate about good quality, wholesome food. They believe that communities are forged around food, and that knowing where food comes from and how to make it is a vital part of everybody’s culture, contributing to our health and well-being.
Our Cheese Buyer, Bronwen Percival and her husband Francis are involved in running a series of seminars on a variety of food topics. Past seminars have included discussion on flavour in wine and coffee and the evolution of cheddar cheese.
Monmouth Coffee Company is our sister company, owned and run by Randolph's wife Anita Le Roy. Their approach to the Arabica coffees that they buy, roast and sell has many parallels to ours with cheese. They travel extensively visiting farms, estates and co-operatives, tasting coffees and talking in depth with the producers in order to learn more and looking for interesting varietals and new small scale producers. They aim to set up a close relationship with the producers so that fair pricing, quality and quantity can be openly discussed and in this way set up sustainable, equal and fair trading.