Almost every year, for the last 30 years, since she helped found the American Cheese Society, Ricki has been attending the annual ACS convention.
It's held in a different part of the country (or Canada) each time and this one was located in Madison, Wisconsin (a repeat location to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the organization). Next year it will be in Sacramento, California, and we hope you can attend.
This year's convention was very special for Ricki because she was given the Lifetime Achievement Award, a great honor bestowed every year by the Board of the ACS to a member who has made an outstanding contribution to the cheese community at large and to the ACS. Ricki was thrilled to have been chosen and we were all very proud of her.
I took quite a few pictures, but there were many more events than the ones I attended. So, bear in mind that this was a huge conference (with over 700 attendees this year) and there was a LOT going on at all times. Here are a few highlights:
Wednesday, July 31
The day before the actual conference
When I arrived in Madison, Ricki and her husband, Jamie and Sarah (Ricki's daughter) and her husband, Mark were already there. I checked into our hotel and walked to Monona Terrace where the conference would be held.
|We stayed at the Madison Concourse, within walking distance of the convention|
|The capitol building was right around the corner.|
First stop was the fabulous cheese store on Capitol Square- Fromagination
Right next door to the cheese shop, there was a toy store (Capitol Kids) so I had to buy a cheese hat for my nephew. One of the store salespeople, Jill Hovden, modeled my hat.
When I arrived at the convention center, Ricki and Jamie were working hard, getting ready for the upcoming cheese sale at the end of the conference. All the cheese left over from the ACS Judging and Competition (over 1700 entries) had to be cut and wrapped so it could be sold to the public at bargain prices on Sunday.
Ricki was in charge of the sale, so she worked on it off and on during the entire conference. That first day, she and Jamie labored from 7am - 9:30pm, cutting, wrapping and moving cheese.
|Ricki was happy to see me, but I think it was only because I was a new volunteer arriving in the scene!|
|Jamie spent much of the day cutting cheese - hundreds, if not thousands of pounds.|
|When he wasn't cutting cheese, Jamie was rolling racks of cheese to the refrigerated trucks parked right outside the loading docks.|
Meanwhile, Sarah and Mark were taking a bus tour of three cheese making operations: (These pictures were taken by Sarah):
Blue Mont Dairy in Blue Mounds
This company ended up winning third place Best of Show for their Big Sky Grana.
|The straw bale greenhouse|
|Entrance to aging cave|
|Door handles on cave|
Hook's Cheese Company in Mineral Point
|Sarah and Mark enjoying the tour|
|The cheeses in the top box have been saved for 20 years so far!|
Roelli Cheese Company in Shullsburg
Thursday, August 1
Breakfast and keynote address
|Cheese was always on the menu|
|The keynote speaker, Odessa Piper, spoke about the growth of organic, local food in Madison where she owned a restaurant (L'Etoile on Capitol Square) for 30 years.|
|Ricki wearing her impressive badge with ribbons for Educating, Volunteering and Presenting|
Networking in the halls
We were setting up our sponsor's table when I took these pictures. Between sessions (workshops), attendees mingled and checked out the tables.
|The conference center (Monona Terrace) was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright|
Business Meeting and lunch
|Ricki and Judy Schad, owner of Capriole Goat Cheese|
|Laura Werlin, author of 4 award-winning books about cheese|
|Peggy Smith, co-founder of Cowgirl Creamery|
Lifetime Achievement Award
Greg O'Neill, President of the ACS announced that this year's winner was the one and only Ricki Carroll, our Cheese Queen!
|Greg O'Neill, President of ACS|
Two longtime members spoke about Ricki's many contributions to the ACS and to the growth of the artisinal cheese movement in this country.
|Alyce Birchenough, Board member and founder of Sweet Home Farm in Alabama|
|Judy Schad, founder of Capriole in Indiana|
Ricki accepted her award and spoke a few words about the importance of legislation supporting organic, locally grown foods.
|Ricki with her proud daughter, Sarah after the award was given. (Sarah is expecting a baby in November.)|
Back at our table
|We proudly displayed Ricki's award|
|Steve Tate of Goat Lady Dairy stopped by to congratulate Ricki|
|There's always a comedian! Patrick Coughlin of Dairy Connection accepted "his award" from Mark|
Meet the Cheesemakers
There were 85 cheese makers displaying their cheeses and offering samples. It was a great opportunity to ask the cheese makers themselves questions about their work. Of course, we all stuffed ourselves, sampling way too many cheeses!
Monona Rooftop Welcome at the Lake
The evening of the first day, we celebrated on the rooftop of the convention center, overlooking Lake Monona.
Friday, August 2
I had the opportunity to attend a workshop about "Terroir - Reality Myth?" We tasted 3 Comte cheeses, all made the exact same way at 3 different farms in the Comte region of France (and aged in the same cave). They were very different, due to the microflora at each farm.
Town Hall Meeting
This popular event was an opportunity for the attendees to express their views about the conference, the ACS and the future of artisan cheese in this country.
The Judging and Competition Awards Ceremony
This was a very exciting event for everyone as we all waited to hear the winners in each category. There was a lot of dancing and jumping around on the stage by very happy cheese makers as they accepted their awards.
Best of Show went to the Caves at Jasper Hill for their "Winnimere."
Saturday, August 3
Breakfast of Champions
The soft cheeses, butters, and yogurts from the competition were laid out for our consumption at a fabulous breakfast buffet. It definitely not your typical Continental Breakfast!
Ricki was one of 4 presenters at a session called, "ACS' Rock of Ages: Unplugged, Uncensored and Uncut!" A moderator guided the panelists through a fun history of the ACS, as they had experienced it.
Induction into the Guilde Internationale Des Fromagers
It is a great honor to be chosen for membership in the Guild. Last year, Ricki was inducted (click here).
|Max McCallum, author and cheese monger was awarded a promotion to a higher level within the society.|
Festival of Cheeses
On the last night of the conference, the entries in the competition were available for tasting. The first hour was open for attendees only, then it was opened to the public. There were so many tables, we were given maps of the room!
The winning cheeses were displayed with their ribbons.
|I limited myself to tasting only the blues this year. This was sort of a "pin-up" picture for me!|
|When they opened it up to the public, the line went up two stories to this hallway.|
Sunday, August 4
The purpose of this sale was to raise money for the ACS Scholarship Fund. Ricki and Jamie swung into action with a team of volunteers, getting the racks of cheese from the refrigerated trucks downstairs, up two stories to the hall and then out onto the tables.
When it was opened to the public, customers were able to purchase bags for a set price and fill them or they could buy hunks of cheese for $5. It was a great deal and more money was raised this year than last, setting a new record of over $14,000!
|Ricki was looking a little crazed when the pressure was on to get the cheeses unloaded|
|Jamie remained cool and calm (on the outside, at least!)|
|Some of the wheels were worth $1000, but Ricki sold them for $200 each.|
Monday, August 5
The Trip Home
At the airport, we ran into some new friends from the conference- Dr. Inhyu Bae, Professor of Animal Science & Technology at Dunchon National University in South Korea and his student (at left).
Ricki turned around at one point and there was her longtime friend, Patch Adams, founder of the Gesundheit Institution (a free community hospital). He was on his way to the Amazon.
Will we see you next year in Sacramento?