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Boston Post Dairy cheese: Made by women, aged by women

Jenna Hurty-Person for Progressive Dairyman Published on 23 November 2016
Many of the cheeses are named in honor of family mambers

After seeing how popular his daughters’ (Anne Doe and Susan Blouin) maple products and goats’ milk soap were at the local Vermont farmers’ markets, Robert Gervais joked with them that they needed to open their own store. They responded, “Yeah, right.”

Just a few years later in 2008, however, that joke turned into reality when he bought a local 50-cow tiestall dairy and proposed his plan for what would become Boston Post Dairy.

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He’d turn the farm management over to Anne and Susan if they built a store on the property and brought their other two sisters, Theresa Lawyer and Annette Brown, into the business.

Stacking cheese

At the time, Theresa and her husband, Lee, had a successful goat dairy not too far away and were supplying Susan with the goats’ milk for her soap. The sisters knew they needed more than maple products and soap to run a successful business, so they started brainstorming.

“We said, ‘OK, we’re going to have a store’,” Anne says. “We knew our two products were not going to float a business, so we said, ‘OK, what else do we have?’ Well, Theresa had all of these goats with all of this milk, so let’s learn to make cheese. Susan and I took the cheese classes, and we started making cheese.”

To help them set up the business, they hired a consultant who guided them through the regulations and requirements for building the cheese house, aging caves, and making and selling cheese. However, the cheesemaking itself proved to be much more challenging than anticipated.

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“We didn’t know what we were doing,” Anne says. “Well, the goats started kidding and we had no place to send the milk, so we started making cheese then and there. Theresa’s like, ‘I’ve got this milk. You guys have got to do something with it.’ Taking the classes are one thing, but actually putting it to work is totally different.”

When they made their first batch, they didn’t have cultures yet. After an internet search, they discovered that lemon juice and vinegar can be used instead of cultures, so that’s what they did. Their first few batches were queso cheeses, but soon they had the cultures they needed to make chevre.

Our parents have always instilled in us that anything we wanted to do, we can

The humble cheesecloth turned out to be their next trial when they found out the hard way that the cheesecloth at the store is not the same cheesecloth used in cheesemaking. They thought it would be perfect – except when they went to strain the whey, Anne says, the curds went right through.

After that discovery, Susan’s mother-in-law ran to the store, bought the better cheesecloth and spent all night sewing pillow-case-sized bags for them to use the next morning while they waited for the right cheesecloth bags to arrive.

Now they had cheese to sell. The only problem: There aren’t many distributors near Enosburg Falls, Vermont, where the dairy is located. Getting their foot in the door proved to be a challenge.

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In 2010, however, they won an award for their chevre, giving them a little bit of recognition and the interest of Squash Valley Produce, who became a distributor for them shortly afterward.

They also started making hard cheeses around then. In 2011 they took their first award for their Eleven Brothers cheese, so named for their 11 brothers – who Anne says were a lot of work, just like the cheese, but they both turned out well.

Here they are making White Diamond

This award garnered them even more attention and interest from distributors including Provisions International LTD, who has been their main distributor ever since.

Prior to 2011, Anne and Annette not only made all of the cheese, they also milked the cows. However, with the increased popularity and distribution also came more cheese orders. They needed to take something off of their plates.

At that point, they decided to finally allow a man on the farm and hired their baby brother, Michael Gervais, to manage the cow herd. That same year, Theresa expanded her goat herd, so she, Lee and their daughter Sally Hale started doing that full time.

They also decided to split the cheese business, goat dairy and cow dairy into separate businesses at this point to simplify things. Now, the cheese house still has pipelines directly from both the goat and cow parlors, but they track and pay for the milk they use, freeing Theresa and Michael to sell any surplus milk.

Interestingly enough, the local population has been the hardest group to sell to. When they first bought the dairy, they tore down the tiestall barn, which was caving in, and then built the cheese house with a freestall barn in the back.

Shortly after that, they added the goats and the goat barn and were promptly labeled the “goat farm” by the locals. Anne laughs because the cows were there first, but because they started making goat cheese first, they were labeled the goat farm.

However, last year, Anne bought a cheddaring machine for making cows’ milk cheese curds, and since then the locals have been hooked.

The sistes hand bail the hey instead of draining

Today, they have around 100 head of cows and 300 head of goats on the farm now that Theresa moved her entire goat herd down to the dairy. They produced 23,000 pounds of cheese in the past year, and Susan has started making goats’ milk lotions in addition to soap.

They have also brought on a few more family members to help out, like Anne’s daughter-in-law, Linnea Doe, who has taken over Anne’s bakery and maple specialties side of the Boston Post Dairy business.

The sisters have gone on to win numerous regional and national awards for their cheese, including a blue ribbon for Tres Bonne and a white ribbon for Gisele at the 2016 American Cheese Society Competition. They even won bronze at the 2016 World Cheese Contest with Tres Bonne with a score of 99.2. However, Anne says they’re not done yet.

“If you want to succeed, you will,” Anne says. “We’ve overcome a lot of hurdles to get as far as we have, but we’re still not there. We need to double what we’re doing.”

Going forward, one thing is for certain: Family and hard work will continue to be the foundation this company stands on.

“It’s all about family, so that’s why we have a cheese named after her (their mom, Gisele Gervais). She never wanted any recognition; she was always working in the back room. Like with the Tres Bonne, for example; the day I brought that one out, we were all tasting it because we always did that. I said, ‘OK, I cut into the Gouda-style.

It’s 3 months old.’ We are tasting it, and everyone’s like, ‘That’s really good; that’s really good.’ I didn’t even know Mom was in the back room working on something; she goes ‘say Tres Bon’ in French, and we’re like, ‘That’s a good name.’ If you talk to someone that’s really French, they say we spelled it wrong because in French their words are male and female, so ‘Bonne’ is the female version; I said, ‘No, that is spelled correctly because it’s made by women and it’s aged by women’.”  end mark

PHOTO 1: Many of the cheeses are named in honor of family members. One of the most notable names is their Gisele cheese, which is named after their mother, Gisele Gervais. Anne says their mother has always been one of their biggest inspirations and role models.

PHOTO 2: The dairy’s summer visitor from France, Adele Berrier, employee Patty Woods, Anne and Annette. People told them that they couldn’t stack the cheese molds three high – and if they did, they wouldn’t be strong enough to lift them. Anne says they laughed and responded, “Yeah, we are. We’ve got 11 brothers. We can handle this.”

PHOTO 3: “Our parents have always instilled in us that anything we wanted to do, we could do it. They were always supporting us,” Anne says.

PHOTO 4: Here they are making White Diamond, which is a goats’ milk camembert. Anne says they made the first batch by mistake. Their distributor had asked for cows’ milk camembert, which they started making – but accidently pumped over goats’ milk on the third batch and didn’t realize it until it was too late. After testing it, however, their distributor asked them to keep making the goats’ milk version.

PHOTO 5: The sisters hand bail the whey instead of draining it through the valve. Anne says once they get to the point that they really need a catwalk, she’ll have her brothers put one in. Photos by Jenna Hurty-Person.

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