The Artisan Cheese Crisis

We were absolutely delighted that 'A Cheesy Night In' was selected as one of BBC Good Food Magazine’s Top 15 Cheese Delivery Boxes.  It’s an incredibly influential magazine, and we are so pleased to see them championing British cheese because the artisan cheese industry is enormously fragile right now.

The problem for cheese makers is the collapse of the hospitality industry. The main customers of most small, traditional cheesemakers are hotels and restaurants; those wonderful dining destinations whose menus include diverse, often local and always interesting cheese selections that combine to create truly satisfying cheeseboards. With the hospitality industry closed for the foreseeable future, and with cheese stores full of produce that has a time-sensitive shelf life, many of our friends in the cheese world are facing a crisis. But it’s a crisis that can be averted by eating more cheese.

So in the spirit of saving the British cheese industry, we would like to introduce you to some of our friends, and invite you to try their beautiful cheeses. There has never been a better time to do so, because the cheese industry has rallied round to create the British Cheese Weekender – a three day online cheese event organised by cheese writer Patrick McGuigan, the Specialist Cheesemakers Association, the Academy of Cheese and the Guild of Fine Food. Great British Food Magazine has a good write up about the event.

From 8th till 10th May you can join in by taking part in some fantastic online events; from cheese making workshops to cheese and beer matching experiences to behind the scenes tours. It’s well worth dipping in – you can find the programme here.

Patrick has written about the weekend in today’s Telegraph, and food writer and artisan cheese supporter , Joanna Blythman, has written about it from a Scottish point of view in today’s Herald.

We only have one delivery date in our online shop left before the British Cheese Weekender starts, so if you miss that slot, or if you fancy a change from our cheeses, or if you simply want to help save British cheese by upping your own artisan cheese consumption, then here are some of the cheese heroes we’d recommend.

Our local cheese heroes

It’s less than a decade ago that we came up with the idea of restarting cheese making on our farm. The first person we called was our friend Barry at Loch Arthur. It’s a cheese making story that comes full circle, because when Barry first started making traditional cheeses at Loch Arthur in the 1980s, some the cheese making equipment he revived had been used at our farm for over 100 years!  

Our journey back to cheese making was also supported by the knowledge, advice and shared craftsmanship of Errington Cheese, a pioneer in the Scottish artisan cheese making, and Connage Highland Dairy.  All three of these superb cheese makers are now selling cheese for direct delivery. 

Loch Arthur has a couple of British Cheese Weekender boxes to choose from, one of which includes their own beautiful cheddar, and you can order them by calling them on 01387 259669 or by emailing shop@locharthur.org.uk

Connage has a well established online shop that sells a range of their cheeses, you can find them here.  Errington are offering delicious boxes of not only their own cheese, but also a Support Scottish Cheese box, which includes cheddar from the fantastic Isle of Mull Cheese.

Other Scottish cheesemakers that we would highly recommend are Galloway Farmhouse Cheese, Kedar Cheese, Cambus o’ May and St Andrews Farmhouse Cheese.  You can find out more about all of these cheeses, and others, by exploring the Scottish Food Guide, which has been put together by Wendy Barrie, who is a true champion of artisan cheese.

Our sustainable cheese heroes

Being committed to sustainable, organic food ourselves, we naturally rate Patrick Holden’s Hafhod cheese very highly, not just for its quality but also for its environmental credentials. Patrick farms in west Wales and he’s also the founding director of the Sustainable Food Trust, a pioneering charity that champions sustainable food systems. 

Jonny Crickmore of Fen Farm in Suffolk makes a stunning brie-style cheese from their raw, grass-fed Montbeliarde cows milk, and they also make their own butter. They’re not cow with calf but we like their approach to farming and we love their cheese. Their current selection box of cheese includes Patrick’s Hafhod cheese.

We met the Westcombe Farm team at a cheese workshop organised by Neals Yard and we were impressed both by their generosity in sharing their knowledge and experience, and by their attention to detail in the care of their herd. They’re based in Somerset and their cheese and charcuterie is available to order on their website.

Our cheese expert heroes

And where would the cheese world be without the knowledgeable cheesemongers who carefully, select, and often help perfect, artisan cheeses.  Neals Yard Cheese and The Courtyard Dairy both provide an abundance of choice of cheese through their online stores, and in Scotland cheesemongers I. J. Mellis and George Mewes both offer online ordering. 

Thank you for supporting cheesemakers like us and our friends in the cheese world. Buying artisan British cheese right now, for yourself or as a lockdown gift for others, is an ideal way to support small businesses while also enjoying a truly special taste of a traditional British craft food.