Local Artisans Form the Michigan Cheese and Dairy Guild

An assortment of cheese on a shelf.

If you’re a cheese lover, listen up. An exciting development is taking place in our state related to Michigan’s artisanal cheese scene. 

A logo of the Michigan Cheese and Dairy Guild.

Our relationship with cheese, though not as ancient as some global counterparts, has always been linked to its rich farming culture. From quaint family-run farms to the more extensive dairy operations, cheese has been a staple in our state’s culinary scene. However, it’s the recent surge in artisan cheese making that’s really putting Michigan on the map in the cheese world.

Cheese artisans come together

Small, independent Michigan-based dairy makers – Arend Elston from Zingerman’s Creamery, Josh Hall from Leelanau Cheese, Tina Zinn from The Cheese Lady and Zach Berg from Monger’s Provisions – have co-founded the Michigan Cheese and Dairy Guild. This collaborative is dedicated to promoting and preserving the rich tradition of dairy production in the region.

Elston said the guild “supports, educates, and fundraises to promote the prosperity of the Michigan food and tourism industry with a focus on artisan cheese and dairy.”

Zingerman’s Creamery leads the way

“There are very few artisan cheese makers in the state of Michigan,” Elston said.

A assortment of sliced cheese.

The guild is the foundation for building cooperation and spurring expansion within Michigan’s dairy sector.

“Being one of the founding members of the guild, Zingerman’s Creamery is excited to be a key contributor in driving initiatives that will support the local artisan cheese community,” Elston said.

Elston’s craftsmanship in cheese making is a blend of age-old techniques and modern innovation, producing cheeses that celebrate the depth and variety of local dairy.

“We make soft ripened aged cheese such as brie, from both goat and cow milk, aged for up to three weeks. We also make spreadable cheese from scratch such as goat and cow cream cheese, in a variety of flavors,” Elston elaborates.

Business development

A significant milestone for the guild, and a testament to its impact, is the partnership with local businesses such as Meijer to host dedicated Michigan Cheese & Dairy Guild coolers. This initiative makes artisanal cheeses more accessible to the community, highlighting the guild’s role in bridging the gap between local producers and consumers to ensure “that locally made cheese is always accessible to customers,” shares Elston.

Participating store locations currently include:

The Guild’s upcoming agenda

Brie sold at the Michigan Cheese and Dairy Guild.

But, the guild isn’t just about cheese production; it’s also about building a community. From conducting classes on making mozzarella and burrata to participating in guild networking events, the partners strive to educate and connect with cheese lovers and newcomers alike.

The guild’s upcoming agenda is as rich and varied as the 

cheeses it champions. Additional details are available by contacting the guild.

  • 3/15: Happy Hour fundraiser at Zingerman’s Deli
  • 3/19, 3:00 pm: Producers Guild members meet up on Zoom
  • 3/25, 4:00 pm: Retail Guild members meet up on Zoom

The future of cheese

Looking ahead, the prospects for cheese in Michigan are promising.

“I think you will see us work closely with other guilds in the specialty food, beverage, and tourism sectors within the state of Michigan and beyond to market, sell and educate consumers on what the local cheese community has to offer,” Elston said.

Support the movement

An assortment of cheese sold at the Cheese and Dairy Guild.

Engaging with the Michigan Cheese and Dairy Guild offers cheese lovers a chance to support local cheese makers and savor top-notch cheese and dairy. You don’t have to be in the cheese business to become a member; all are invited to join.They welcome donations and have signature merchandise available for purchase.

Sign up for their emails to stay in-the-know.

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