It's been a banner year for Grafton Village Cheese. Earlier this year the business received a total of 23 awards at the American Cheese Society, International Cheese Awards, US Championship Cheese Contest and the Big E New England Cheese Competition in 2013.
Its latest accolade includes being recognized as a 2013 "Editors' Choice Food Awards" winner in Yankee Magazine's November/December issue. Grafton Village Cheese's Vermont Clothbound Cheddar was recognized by Yankee editors as a favorite artisanal New England food in the Dairy & Cheese category. The cheese is a classic milled curd cow's milk cheddar wrapped in cheesecloth while it ages slowly in Grafton's own aging caves for a minimum of six months.
All of these awards are obviously good for the company from a marketing standpoint, and more effective than any paid advertising. The awards are also good for Grafton and Brattleboro, home to Grafton Village Cheese's two retail stores.
This is the type of specialty business that makes Vermont famous and unique throughout New England, indeed the whole country. Tourists like to come here for the skiing and fall foliage, of course, but they always make a point to stop along the way to buy a sampling of local maple syrup and hand-crafted cheese that they can't get anywhere else. It allows them to take a piece of Vermont home with them to share with family and friends, which in turn piques the interest of more potential tourists and customers.
Grafton Village Cheese has a long history and tradition here in Vermont. The company was founded in 1892 as the Grafton Cooperative Cheese Company, which converted surplus milk from local dairy farmers into cheese. Years later, a fire destroyed the original factory, but then the Windham Foundation restored the company in the mid 1960s and has been using the company's annual income to fund various charitable programs in the area.
Recently the Reformer wrote an in-depth series of articles about some internal strife within the Windham Foundation that has caused some to complain that the nonprofit has lost its way. One of the complaints was an operational change at Grafton Village Cheese some years ago that led to a more mass-produced formula for the cheese, which some said had an adverse effect on the quality of the product.
More recently the company has returned to its slow-age process for the cheese, and is being rewarded for those efforts. Hopefully this will remind people of that old adage: If it ain't broke, don't fix it.