2020 Producer Candidates
Rebekah Baker has been working in Specialty Cheese for 10 years. The first half of her career was spent in retail working at Pastoral Artisan, Whole Foods, and as Corporate Director of Cheese for Nugget Market. Next, she moved into distribution, as the Category Director of Cheese for Tony’s Fine Foods. Presently she is the Western Regional Specialty Sales Manager for Tillamook where she is helping to introduce and establish their specialty portfolio. She has served on the board for the California Artisan Cheese Guild and as Board President for 2018. With ACS she volunteers with the Scholarship Selection Panel, presented on a panel at the 2018 conference, was Co-Chair of the Portland 2020 ACS Conference Host Committee and received her ACS CCP™ certification in 2014. Rebekah received her Executive MBA degree in the summer 2019 and is strongly committed—as a matter of vocation—to advancing the specialty cheese industry.
Statement of Intent
I am passionate about supporting the greater cheese community. Having worked across a variety of roles in the industry (cheesemonger, retail buyer, distribution, producer) I can contribute a unique viewpoint and insight to the board. My central goal is to extend opportunities for education and access among ACS members and the larger specialty cheese community, and thereby deepen the mission of ACS. My experience and education provide a basis for accomplishing this goal in strategic and effective ways. Furthermore, I intend to utilize my Executive MBA and business experience to support the long-term financial health of the organization. It would be an honor to support ACS with my experience, knowledge and expertise by serving on the Board of Directors.
Jessica Little grew up on her parents’ dairy farm where she participated in 4-H and cleaned her share of water troughs over summer vacations. After swearing to never live in South Georgia, she moved back after receiving a business degree. Along the way, she fell in love with the hospitality industry and husband, Jeremy, who in turn fell in love with artisan cheeses. Jessica and Jeremy purchased Sweet Grass Dairy in 2005 and have won over 30 national and international awards. The business also includes a busy restaurant that focuses on storied ingredients from like-minded producers. Jessica is the proud mother of four boys, an ACS CCP™ and a Certified Sommelier. She is a member of the Fellowship of Southern Farmers, Artisans & Chefs of the SFA and the International Guilde de Fromagers. Jessica also serves on the boards of the Southern Cheesemakers Guild and Hands and Hearts for Horses.
Statement of Intent
I am honored to be considered as a potential board member for the American Cheese Society. Although I did not discover my love for cheese until college when I worked at several great restaurants, I fell in love with sustainable agriculture and humane animal husbandry at a young age. Over the past seventeen years, I have gone through many enlightening and difficult growing pains while scaling a family owned creamery in South Georgia. We are in a critical time as we face the unknown challenges of a global pandemic as well as the increased demand for plant-based foods. I love strategic planning and would be proud to work hard to help draft the next strategic vision for the ACS. This is the time that our industry needs to be decisive, offer clear direction, educate about the benefits of cheese, and chart a path of success for the future.
2020 Trade Affiliate Candidates
John Stueland has provided Minnesota three decades of retail and food service leadership. His roles have included chef, deli manager, category manager, and currently director of deli and food service at Lunds and Byerlys. He was a part of the inaugural ACS CCP™ exam of 2012 and has since supported his teams continued participation and preparation in the CCP™ exam. In both retail and food service, John has a history of collaborative projects connecting producers, retail teams, and customers in new and innovative ways. His passion for sustainable practices reaches beyond the retail environment, as he is also an active member of his community’s Green Step team.
Statement of Intent
My support and promotion of American cheese is based in my belief that we are all in this together, we are fully integrated from farming through retail. Having a shared vision of American cheese that encourages quality, safety, and sustainability creates an environment for mutual success. My intent is for our members to continue to have access to key resources that are essential for all of us to go to market and navigate change.
Daniel Utano has proudly worked in the cheese industry for over 15 years. Working across the supply chain, he has worked as a cheesemonger, restaurant fromager, and as a cheesemaker, production manager and food safety officer on family farms and in urban settings. His work at industry leading companies include Sickles Market, Artisanal Bistro, Jasper Hill, Beecher’s Handmade Cheese and Ferndale Farmstead. As a plant manager and food safety officer he has implemented efficiencies and safety-conscious practices, successfully guiding companies to achieve fiscal success and compliance with complex food safety standards. Along the way he has helped to develop several award-winning cheeses. He’s been heard and seen on radio and television, on such programs as NBC’s The Chew, Food Network’s Barefoot Contessa, CBS’ On! New York, SiriusXM’s Martha Steward Radio, and Heritage Radio’s Cutting the Curd. As an expert in the field, he was featured in Gordon Edgar’s book “Cheddar: A Journey to the Heart of America’s Most Iconic Cheese”.
Daniel serves as the vice-chair of the Regulatory & Academic Committee and was the lead chair on the 2019 sub-committee review of the Best Practices Guide for Cheesemakers. He is also a contributor to the American Cheese Society (ACS) Body of Knowledge and the Certification Committee. Currently Daniel is the sole proprietor of Daniel Utano Consulting, offering cheese and food safety services across the supply chain and has big dreams of building his own creamery and cheese shop in Washington State’s Skagit valley.
Statement of Intent
I have been an active participant in the American Cheese Society since 2007 and that has come with the personal goal of becoming a leader within our organization. Whether that’s serving on committees, producing educational content, or being an advocate for artisan American cheese, I will do whatever is necessary to protect our industry. The world and market place are constantly changing and it’s very important that ACS continues to adapt, push for change, and always be modernizing. I believe strongly in transparency and always try to keep my pulse on the workers of our industry so that I can truly be working with them in mind.
Serving as the vice chair in the Regulatory & Academic committee has allowed me to work alongside other great members and do valuable work which has given me a unique perspective on how the organization works. Most recently I had the pleasure of working with leaders from the Judging & Competition Committee to improve food safety at the conference and make meaningful changes to judging. It’s been a wonderful experience and I relish every moment that I get to play a part in serving our industry and supporting our members. I wish to help change the landscape of American cheese and would gladly commit my life to that mission. I look forward to the opportunity to work with the board, and a be a voice that helps guide our industry into the coming decades.