2011 Board of Directors Ballot

Please review the slate of new candidates for the ACS Board of Directors, below. After carefully reviewing the slate, please follow the link below to place your votes for your top five candidates – three from the “Producer” group, and two from the “Trade Affiliate” group.


Pat Ford

Bio: Pat Ford, co-founder of Beehive Cheese Co, started his adventure in cheesemaking back in 2005.  With the help from their friends at Utah State University, they developed their recipe, built their facility and started making cheese after a week of instruction, how hard can it be after all?  Beehive Cheese has made a name for itself with a Rubbed Rind technique, one of their most notable cheeses is Barely Buzzed, an Espresso and Lavender rubbed cheese, a 3-time ACS blue ribbon winner.

Statement of Intent: The American Cheese Society has been an invaluable association, giving Beehive Cheese the opportunity to meet and forge relationships with the other ACS members, allowing us to learn and grow.  My desire, if elected, would be to help ACS to continue to be the leader, the resource, the educator and the mentor to the wonderful art of crafting cheese. I would be willing to serve in whatever area needed, with a focus in Marketing or Education.


Lucille Giroux

Bio: Lucille has been a sheep breeder since 1978. She was the first to milk sheep in Québec, and of a few in Canada in 1992. Lucille has been a cheesemaker since 1993, creating 8 ewe’s milk cheeses and yogurt. Many of the cheeses have been rewarded by ACS and the Québec Caseus contest since 2003. She is a foundation member of the Société des fromages du Québec since 2002 and has served as president of the Société since 2007. Lucille also initiated the project to create an Expertise center for cheesemaking in St-Hyacinthe, Québec. She has been involved on the cheesemaker committee for the ACS Conference & Competition in Montréal.

Statement of Intent: I would be interested in participating in a cheesemaking comittee, doing work regarding rules, innovation, technical production and contact with cheesemakers. I am interested in creating links between workers of the industry, like cheesemakers and shop owners,  and also between associations all over North America.


Sarah Hoffmann

Bio: Sarah Hoffmann provides the active day-to-day management of cheesemaking and marketing at Green Dirt Farm, LLC, a small sheep dairy and farmstead creamery near Kansas City, Missouri. Sarah’s educational and professional background, and her entrepreneurial commitment to farmstead cheesemaking make her well qualified to contribute a small business, food safety and farmstead cheesemaker perspective to the ACS board.

Prior to starting Green Dirt Farm in 2002, Sarah had a successful career as an academic physician. Her educational background includes a chemistry degree from Bucknell University, M.D. from University of California-San Francisco, and board certification in Internal Medicine following training at the University of Washington.

Commercial cheese making began at Green Dirt Farm in July 2008. Green Dirt Farm cheeses earned American Cheese Society awards in 2009 and 2010. Sarah is an active member of the Dairy Sheep Association of North America and the American Cheese Society.

Letter of Intent: As an ACS board member, I would like to contribute additional farmstead cheesemaking perspectives to the organization.  The economic and safety issues that face very small-scale cheesemakers are a greatly magnified rendering of the issues that face all producers in the industry. The smallest operations are often the most innovative but at the same time are the most vulnerable. I believe that valuable insights can be gained for the entire industry by attending closely to the challenges that confront us.


Jeff Jirik

Bio: Jeff is a licensed Wisconsin Cheesemaker with a broad background in science, food and business management. He founded Caves of Faribault, artisanal makers of world champion Gorgonzola and blue cheese, in 2001. He has served on a number of boards including North Central Cheese Industry Association.  He is a member of WCMA, WSCI, Slow Food and ACF.  Jeff has been active in ACS since 2001; from presenting on panels to serving on the newsletter committee to helping set up for the Festival of Cheese!

Statement of Intent: If elected, I would focus my efforts on preserving the right to responsibly make aged cheeses from raw milk while ensuring that all cheesemakers are properly trained and qualified in current food safety systems before presenting products to the public market.  I am also interested in cheesemaker education from milk selection to affinage.


Michael Koch

Bio: Mike is a strategic marketing executive and entrepreneur with more than 20 years of successful experience. Mike is co-founder of FireFly Farms, a nationally and internationally awarded manufacturer of goat’s milk cheese. Dedicated to the art of cheese making, FireFly’s handmade and carefully aged products are available for purchase throughout the mid-Atlantic region. Mike is experienced in service through his contributions to non-profit boards of director. Mike serves on the board of directors for FreshFarms Markets, a DC-based organization creating market opportunities for local farmers and producers, the Muscarelle Museum of Art, and the Diversity & Inclusion Council of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC).

Statement of Intent: I am honored and pleased to be on the 2011 ballot for the American Cheese Society board of directors. I first became acquainted with the ACS as a start-­up cheesemaker and entrepreneur in 2002. My partner, Pablo Solanet, and I attended the annual ACS conference in Washington, DC that year; I remember being so very impressed by the quality of the programming, the welcoming spirit of the ACS members, and the incredible openness and willingness to offer help and advice among the cheesemaking community. We formed a number of very influential relationships at that first conference that persist to this day.

Today, almost a decade later, our business is thriving and expanding – and we are having an impact on our local and regional food system. Since FireFly Farms began production in 2002 as Maryland’s first goat cheese producer, no less than four other Maryland goat cheesemakers have entered the market. We celebrate this growth in our category, and hope that future consumers come to know Maryland and the Mid-­‐Atlantic region for its artisan goat cheese much like regional identities are taking root in Vermont, Wisconsin, and California.

As an ACS board member, my personal objectives would be three-­fold: 1) to contribute my energies to the mission of the ACS at a time when its advocacy for a vibrant, diverse, sustainable local food system is much needed; 2) to participate in the further development of regional cheesemaker communities that can support and serve members’ market and business development needs; and 3) to broaden my industry relationships in order to better manage and direct my own developing cheese company.


Ranee May

Bio: I have been a cheesemaker for over 30 years, specializing in hard cheeses.  I have taught at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls for 29 years.  During this time, I manage the University Dairy Plant and teach the Dairy Technology curriculum.

For the past 25 years, I have been volunteering through various programs to teach dairy technology in developing countries.  Thus far, I have worked in approximately 25 different countries, logging over 4,000 hours.

Statement of Intent: With the consumption of cheeses and other dairy products becoming a global event, I believe a safe and wholesome product is of the utmost importance.  I would like to focus on the issue of food safety, developing an educational program for farmstead and artisanal cheesemakers.  This program would entail an in-depth program on HACCP and other quality systems.  The cheesemaker must have the correct tools and skill sets to ensure the quality of their product.  I would like to see a program and resources developed and offered through a central location to assist the cheesemaker in this area.  I believe that the American Cheese Society is an ideal venue for accomplishing this.

Regulatory agencies have the responsibility to oversee food safety.  It is the cheesemaker’s responsibility to educate these agencies in the different nuances of farmstead operations.  With the Society’s vast experiences and knowledge of members, this can be accomplished.  An open dialogue between these two groups is vital not only for the continuation of the farmstead/artisanal cheese maker but also for consumers.


Peggy Smith

Bio: Peggy Smith is co-owner and operator of Cowgirl Creamery and Tomales Bay Foods. She opened Cowgirl Creamery in 1997 in Pt. Reyes Station, California, where she began to make and distribute cheese to the San Francisco Bay Area. The business has grown to include a small production facility and distribution warehouse in Petaluma, Ca. as well as a retail shop in San Francisco and Washington DC.

Sue Conley, (Peggy’s business partner,) and Peggy served as co-chairs of the ACS Conference which was held in San Francisco in 2004. Peggy has also served as a panelist for several conferences, regarding topics such as the challenges of small retail operations and distribution networks.

Statement of Intent: If elected to serve on the Board of the ACS, I would love to involve myself with the issues of HACCP, and issues that are of interest to small cheese operations, both production and retail, in general. I appreciate your consideration to serve.


Francis Wall

Bio: Francis began his dairy career working on a neighborhood dairy farm through grade and high school in rural Denmark, WI.  He was responsible for milking cows everyday before school. He is a graduate of St. Norbert College and the University of Wisconsin Madison.  Francis spent thirteen years working at an independent community bank where he developed business relationships with local farmers and small businesses. Francis is the vice president of Marketing at BelGioioso Cheese.  He is married with one son and enjoys making wood fired pizza, gardening and wildlife.

Statement of Intent: Growing up in a rural community I had the opportunity to work on a neighbor’s dairy farm and see firsthand the dedication and work ethic of Wisconsin farmers.  Each cow had a name and was treated individually based on its character just as people and cheese should be.  As a part of a cheesemaking company, we are no different, our dedication, work ethic, experience and commitment to excellence are seen and tasted in every piece.  I love food and cheese.  I am learning more and more about quality food and want to promote this to all people.  As a board member, I will promote all cheeses equally based on their own merits.  I have learned that great cheese begins with fresh milk, respect for tradition, consistent quality, availability, value and, above all, flavor. If the cheese is not good, the story that was built around it will fade quickly in the memory of the customer.


Mark Wustenberg

Bio: Mark is a veterinarian who has spent virtually all of his career working with the dairy industry. Currently, he works with Tillamook County Creamery Association as the Vice President of Quality & Member services. In this role he is responsible for managing all aspects of food safety and quality from the farm through our cheese making activities, as well as other products we produce, to consumer. Mark is also responsible for supporting the coop member and non-member dairies that supply milk to Tillamook. Prior to joining Tillamook, Mark was the co-owner with his wife Judy of Kilchis Dairy Services which specialized in dairy veterinary and nutrition services. Over his career, he has worked with dairy farms and processors of all sizes and scales and he would love the opportunity to participate more actively in the American Cheese Society.

Statement of Intent: First of all, I am honored to be considered for a seat on the board of ACS.  I’ve spent most of my career working with producers and processors of all sizes and levels of business sophistication in the dairy industry.  I’ve also had the opportunity to work on dairy projects both domestically and internationally. While my experience has been varied, much of the work I’ve done has focused on milk quality.

A basic guiding principle during my career has been to try to add value to the businesses I’ve worked with through the business and technical skills I’ve acquired. I think one of my strengths has been the ability to apply these skills across a wide range of business environments. In fact, some of the most enjoyable work I’ve done has been centered around helping to implement good business and production management practices in business environments that, either because of small scale or location, do not have vast resources available to address their business needs.

I am interested in contributing to ACS because I see this organization as an important part of fostering and supporting a diverse dairy industry. It is easy to convince yourself that our industry is rapidly becoming one where you cannot afford to participate unless you are a relatively large-scale operation. However, I believe that by understanding our industry and working with all groups involved whether they be producer, processor, customer, or regulator we can arrive at creative solutions that allow businesses of all sizes to prosper without compromising the basic rules we need to observe.

I would be excited to be able to use my background in livestock production and food safety and quality systems to support the efforts of the ACS.


Kate Arding

Bio: Kate Arding is an independent dairy consultant specializing in small-scale cheese production. She is also a co-founder and the Cheese Director of culture, the acclaimed—and first ever—national consumer cheese magazine, launched in December 2008.

A native of Britain, Kate has worked in the farmstead cheese industry for 20 years, beginning as wholesale manager for Neal’s Yard Dairy in London, where she developed hands-on knowledge – and love – of the cheese industry.  In 1997, Kate moved to California to help establish Cowgirl Creamery and Tomales Bay Foods, a business modeled after Neal’s Yard Dairy but focusing on American artisanal and farmstead cheeses.

Since 2003, Kate has worked extensively in the United States and overseas as an independent consultant, specializing in affinage, sales and marketing, and helping small-scale cheesemakers adapt to changing market demands. In addition, Kate is thoroughly involved with the day-to-day production of culture magazine and it’s website, culturecheesemag.com.

Kate is a regular judge for the American Cheese Society competition and has also judged at the British Cheese Awards, the World Cheese Competition, and many regional cheese events. Kate lives in New York State.

Statement of Intent: I am especially interested in expanding the educational work of the ACS and bringing it to a wider audience—including both consumers and those in the trade (cheesemakers, retailers, importers, and distributors). I believe my understanding of and involvement in print and digital media through culture, as well as a strong background in farmstead cheese, puts me in a unique position to help co-ordinate the outreach of ACS resources.

In addition, because of my extensive cheese judging experience, I would be interested in collaborating with David Grotenstein and Todd Druhot to help streamline the current competition process.


Patrick Bleck

Bio: My interest in cheese developed during my junior year abroad in France where all things culinary came to light with special radiance for my then miraculous discovery of the cheese course.  Raised, as I had been to date, on Kraft singles and Tillamook mild at my most daring, this was indeed a brave new world.

The world of cheese evolved stateside in pursuit of a journalism degree with the publication of an article on goat’s cheese with a focus on a Willamette Valley producer at the time, Singing Winds Dairy.

Post graduation, I was offered a job with my distributor who supplied the store where I had worked throughout my college years.  So began my career in specialty cheese distribution with Eurobest Foods.

My involvement as an attendee at ACS conference began early on and over recent years I’ve been involved in the sponsorship committee.  Last year, I had the distinct privilege of auditing every facet of the conference competition in Seattle.  I am also working with a steering committee to launch American Cheese Month.

Statement of Intent: Though the accomplishments of ACS over the many years of its existence are truly remarkable, I feel that the enormous wave of interest in Artisan cheese in the Americas has truly only begun to crest and much work remains to be done within our community.  Primary among my concerns is how we continue to provide sound advice and resources to producers wishing to address a broader market as well as those whose interest resides in a regional reach.   In both instances, the issues of best practices with regard to distribution and marketing are crucial.  I feel my 25 years of experience in the industry has afforded me some measure of understanding of this process and I look forward to providing support to our burgeoning community of cheese makers.   Thank you for your vote!


Jeanne Carpenter

Bio: Jeanne Carpenter is a cheese geek, but she didn’t start out that way. Raised on Velveeta on a family farm in Wisconsin, after college she worked as a journalist, a corporate manager, and finally as a communications specialist for state government. In 2007, she started her own public relations company to promote artisan cheese. In 2009, Jeanne launched Wisconsin Cheese Originals, a member-based organization dedicated to discovering, tasting, and learning about artisan cheeses through a variety of events, including an annual festival every November. She authors the blog, Cheese Underground, and has served on the ACS Marketing Committee since 2008.

Statement of Intent: The ACS is a large, successful organization filled with dedicated members who are passionate about cheese. One of the areas I’d like to work on is coordinating smaller circles of members around the country and helping them find ways to passionately promote their local, artisan cheeses through regional ACS events. Because my background and strengths relate to communications and event planning, I’d be happy to provide event templates to help regional groups get started. Such an approach would allow ACS members to become more tightly networked and strengthen the organization as a whole.


Emilio Mignucci

Bio: Emilio Mignucci is the third generation owner of Di Bruno Bros. in Philadelphia, PA. He received an Associate’s Degree in the Culinary Arts from the Restaurant School in 1986.

At Di Bruno Bros., Emilio grew the store cheese selection from 50 to well over 600, and started sourcing/importing product from Europe. He received the Chaine des Rotisseurs award in 2003.

Emilio was recognized as Retailer of the Year in 2006 from N.A.S.F.T. In 2007, he served as part of the N.A.S.F.T. tasting board for the SOFI awards. He also received a 2007 James Beard Foundation Tribute Award. Emilio serves on the board of the Retailers Network Council for N.A.S.F.T., and he volunteers on the Cheese Certification Committee for the American Cheese Society.

Statement of Intent: I think it is important for cheesemakers to understand what we as retailers can do for them and how it is that we operate our businesses. There should be more information presented to cheesemakers from the end users of their products which will better help the cheesemaker to understand what the general public is looking for. Together, we also need to come up with a solution for the shipping issues that regularly occur. The biggest being the cost of shipping as well as packaging to get product to the retailers in the best possible shape.


Anne Saxelby

Bio: Anne Saxelby is the founder of Saxelby Cheesemongers, a cheese shop in Manhattan selling only American artisan cheeses. Saxelby Cheesemongers maintains a retail shop in the Essex Street Market, and recently built a cheese cave in Brooklyn to better serve a growing wholesale base of over 100 restaurant clients. Anne got her start in the cheese world working at Murray’s Cheese in Greenwich Village, and fell in love with American farmstead cheese after interning as a cheesemaker at Cato Corner Farm. In addition to the retail shop, Anne records a weekly internet radio show called Cutting the Curd, where she hopes to promote artisan cheesemaking and create a useful audio archive for cheesemakers and cheese lovers.

Statement of Intent: I would be honored to serve on the board of the American Cheese Society. As a retailer, it is in my interest to help ensure that the craft of artisan cheesemaking can flourish in the United States. I am interested in helping to create and maintain guidelines and best practices for retailers so that we can do our part in selling safe, delicious, and traditional products. I am also interested in exploring areas of the artisan cheese industry that are currently underserved, such as distribution, to see what new solutions may be found. Finally, I feel that I have a strong sense for marketing and community, and would welcome the opportunity  to help ACS envision new ways to connect cheesemakers, consumers, chefs, and other members of the cheese industry.