Thursday, May 10, 2012

Career Opportunity at Smith's Country Cheese in MA

Dave Smith (The Big Cheese, aka The Aged Gouda!)

Here's your chance to change your life...

Dave Smith and his wife, Carol are almost ready to retire from Smith's Country Cheese in Winchendon, MA.  They have been making their popular farmstead cheese for 27 years.  That's a long time!

They have 2 vats large enough to hold 12,000 and 5,000 pounds of milk.  From this, they make 11 variations of gouda, 6 of cheddar, 4 of havarti and their own unique gouda spreads (12 flavors).

There are 225 milkers and from that, 40% of the milk is used for cheese.  They sell it from their website, through distributors, wholesale direct to retailers, at farmer's markets and at their farm store.

There doesn't seem to be any limit to the demand for the Smith's farmstead cheeses.  The business is a profitable, well organized, fully equipped operation just waiting for new management and ownership.  The Smiths are looking forward to discussing this opportunity with people who love cows and making cheese (which sort of go together!).

Make room with observation windows (at right, out of sight)

Dave's wife, Carol Smith in the farm store


It all started when Dave grew up next door to a dairy farm.  He decided he wanted to be a farmer, so he attended the Stockbridge School of Agriculture at the University of Massachusetts.  After graduation, he went to work for a dairy farm in Connecticut.

Dave learned the ropes, but, after awhile, the owners ran into financial difficulties and told him they were going to have to lay off the help.  Fortunately, he had an idea.  He told them he would work for baby calves and he soon had 20 bred heifers.

Carol and Jennifer, their daughter

Around this time, Dave heard about a farm in Winchendon which was being sold by speculators.

He bought it and, at first, he was living in the barn and working around the clock.  Fortunately, that situation changed with marriage.  (His wife didn't particularly want to live in a barn!) 

He had met Carol while they were both at UMass and they got married.  She taught for 7 years until they started a family -2 daughters and 1 son (and now they have 3 grandchildren). 

Poster by Keep Local Farms

Dave read in the Farm Journal about a program being run by the University of Minnesota, so he flew there to tour cheese making plants.

At one of them, the owner was thinking about going out of business and he was willing to sell his equipment to Dave (along with his cheese making recipes). So, Dave flew to Wyoming, Minnesota, learned to make cheese and drove a rental truck full of equipment back to Massachusetts.

He was selling his milk, but as they say, "Sell it or smell it."  (It's highly perishable.)  Cheese is, of course, just the opposite and with many kinds, the longer they age, the better.  There is a 10 to 1 ratio of milk to cheese, but even so, cheese is much more profitable.

When the Smiths were starting out, Americans consumed less than 10 pounds of cheese per capita, as compared to over 33 pounds now.  There was hardly any competition for farmstead cheese in the area, but the prices were nowhere near as high as they are today.  Now, in spite of the competition, they can't make cheese fast enough to keep up with the demand.

The farm store is a popular stop for bus tours.

Modern Times

Four years ago, Dave made a commitment to cut the carbon footprint of his business by 50%.

He started by installing 112 solar panels on the roof of the building that houses the make room and the gift shop.

This immediately cut the amount of electricity he needed to buy 33%.  (A screen behind the register in the gift shop shows how much electricity he has made and there is some on even the rainiest day.)

This gives a good view of the solar panels on the roof

Then, he partnered with National Grid to change to energy efficient lighting.  After that, he replaced 30 fans in the aging room and put them on a computer to automatically stagger their usage.  (That had a 10 month payback.)

Next, he installed an on-demand hot water heater, changed to a different form of refrigeration and put in a variable speed vacuum pump at the farm.  He was able to cut his energy usage by over 60% at both businesses.

Outside the farm store, this continuously running DVD explains how they
make their cheese.  (You can watch this same DVD at the end of this article.)

Recent Events

Everything was going smoothly until last October, when, at the age of 66, Dave was run over by a loader, crushing his leg and putting him in a coma for 1 1/2 weeks.  (Fortunately, he doesn't remember it happening.)

A day after that, when they still didn't know if Dave was going to survive, his cheese maker's husband died in a car accident.

Dave is on his feet (with the help of a crutch), but his cheese maker has been unable to work steadily since her husband's death and it has been difficult to keep production going.  Dave would like to find a cheese maker or a couple who are passionate about cheese making to learn the business and take it over eventually.  The business is profitable, the market is always expanding and the systems are all in place.  It seems like a great opportunity for someone looking to make a change.

A Tour of the Farm

Entrance to the store with the DVD playing to the left of the door.

View of the barns from behind the store
The Smiths also run a compost business (Otter River Black Gold) recycling their cow manure

The cows are free to roam around the barns

View of the back of the main building

Smith's Country Cheese

  20 Otter River Road  

Winchendon, Massachusetts 01475

Contact Jon Jaffe at

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