Sunday, May 23, 2010

Crossroads Creamery - Take 1

It has been just over a year and a half since I left the bucolic life of Goat Lady Dairy in North Carolina. 2009 was spent settling in, getting financially reestablished (since cheese making internships are not particularly high paying gigs), and learning the lay of the land of southeastern Michigan. Along the way I met a few cheese makers who were just getting established such as Barbara Jenness of Dogwood Farm and Kathy Helenski of Everygreen Lane Farm. Both of them and others were very helpful and supportive by sharing their experiences with me.

The artisan food scene on the west side of the state seems pretty established with lots of agriturism and small producers. Michigan also has a thriving craft beer movement with breweries dotting the entire state, many of them quite good. But cheese is just making an entrance and it is all but absent (aside from Zingerman's at Eastern Market) from the farmers market scene of Detroit and the surrounding area.

In January 2010 I started the FastTrac program at TechTown on the Wayne State campus, funded by the Kauffman Foundation for Entrepreurship. This gave me the inspiration to seriously put the foundation in place to start a new business. First order of business - write a business plan and some some financials together. I did that over the course of 12 weeks and then started focusing on the practicalities of actually getting a business up and going. There was the fundamental problem of no farm, no animals and little money. I had to accept that investing in a dairy in this location in this economy was not really practical. Therefore, with the help of a few advisors, I found a farm that makes a great goat cheese and will use their product for the time being. Then I had to decide on a name for the company which was the hard part and after several false starts decided on Crossroads Creamery.

Then I had to find may way through the licensing process, both legal, regulatory and financial and ultimately find a location which had to be a licensed kitchen. Inspected licensed kitchens are hard to come by and there are no incubator facilities in the entire southeastern part of the state. But fortunately a location accepted my proposal. The best part is they are the closest and really supportive.

Today was my first day in the Birmingham Farmers Market, Sunday's 9-2. Cousin Don of American Farmer (the book) is the market master and has been great as have been the people at the Birmingham PSD. Once established, I hope the demand will be such that I can justify the investment in an urban dairy. The Detroit City Planning Commission recently sent a proposal to the city council suggesting a rewrite of the zoning ordinances to all for urban agriculture in all its forms form city gardens to large cultivated tracts of land including small farm animals. All part of the amazing pride so many people have here in reinventing the city.

For the time being however I will establish Crossroads Creamery as a once-a-week market in Birmingham, MI just up the road from where I live in Royal Oak. There has been lots of enthusiasm and support for this product and today was a great start.
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4 comments:

DanKan48301 said...

Delicious chevres! Good luck with the Creamery. I'll be seeing you at the Birmingham Farmers Market, as I go there often.

DanKan48301 said...

Please call me or send me your email address as I wasn't able to reach you at the contact address on your Profile (jon795). I have two leads for you to talk to at local specialty stores. Don't think posting them as blog comments is appropriate.

Karen said...

Interesting story Jonathan! Accurate observations about the scarcity of artisanal cheesemakers in SE Michigan (I'm in Dearborn). I decided 18 months ago to pursue this craft and began, like you, with some education (University of Vermont). I've also been apprenticing with a cheesemaker in Chelsea, MI and arranged a 2 week apprenticeship with a cheesemaker in Iceland this summer. Hope to meet you at the Birmingham market before the season ends.

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