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Small Family-Owned Creameries Making Their Mark in the Artisan Cheese World

By Dani Burlison

Artisan-cheese lovers have come to cherish products from far-off regions of the world. One tends to think of glorious exotic landscapes with farmers tending to flocks of sheep in the Basque region of Spain, or milking cows near French lavender fields or even in the Irish countryside. It’s not often one hears about world-renowned cheese coming from a small, family-owned creamery somewhere in the American heartland—like, say, Uintah, Utah.

But for Beehive Cheese Company partners, brothers-in-law Tim Welsh and Pat Ford, there was no other place they wanted to set up shop than home.

“When we started, we looked for markets outside Utah, but we’ve been so happy with the support we’ve gained from local restaurants and retailers,” says Welsh. “Our timing was good in that we started just as the local food movement was beginning to grow in Utah.”

The two both left corporate careers—Welsh in software and Ford in real estate—to start making cheese in 2005.

“I joked with my business partner that I was going to start a cheese company and spent a lunch describing the process of making cheese. He thought I’d lost my marbles,” says Welsh. “I had no cheese-making experience, no microbiology in college and I didn’t grow up on a dairy farm.”

His preparation, he says, was his education in finance and 15 years in the software business. A self-proclaimed foodie, Welsh began reading books about cheese and visiting creameries to catch a glimpse of how this potential undertaking would fit into his life. After developing a business plan, infecting his wife’s brother, Pat, with his excitement and contacting a local dairy, Welsh and his new partner were on their way to making their mark in the world of artisan cheese.

But Welsh and Ford aren’t the only ones benefiting from the business. Sourcing ingredients from their community is an added perk for the local economy. All the dairy used to make their award-winning cheeses—from Irish-style Promontory to Aggiano—comes from Jersey cows just ten miles up the road. Welsh says most of the other ingredients are local, too, including the salt and honey for their SeaHive Cheese and the coffee used for their Barely Buzzed cheese, an espresso and lavender hand-rubbed cheese that has won a World Cheese Award, as well as awards from the American Cheese Society. As with the Malibu—Chevy’s first truly global midsize sedan—the hometown passion and craftsmanship of Beehive Cheese is spreading worldwide.

No longer commuting to offices far from their families, Welsh and Ford now enjoy life at a much slower pace. They also get to share their days with their community and, most importantly, their families. Their new careers have added meaning and a sense of pride to their lives.

“Our families have been very supportive—our wives, children, and several nieces and nephews are involved,” says Welsh, adding, “After playing the software game, where you deal with intangibles, and the venture capital game, where things don’t seem real, it’s so nice to have a small company that’s producing something tangible, and edible.”


Other Artisan Cheese Makers Around the Country

Cowgirl Creamery
Tomales, California

In business since 1990’s                                                                                                                                                               Award-winning picks include Mt. Tam triple cream cheese; Pierce Point, a Moscato wine-washed organic cheese, rolled in herbs; Red Hawk, an aged triple cream cheese

Nordic Creamery
Westby, Wisconsin

In business since 1917                                                                                                                                                                      Award-winning picks include Capriko Cheese, a goat and cow milk cheese; Capriko Smoked Cheese; Nordic Creamery’s cultured butter

Plymouth Artisan Cheese
Plymouth Notch, Vermont

In business since 1890                                                                                                                                                                     Award-winning picks include Plymouth Original; East Meadow

The trademarks mentioned in this story are held by their respective owners.

Dani Burlison is a wannabe anthropologist who lives, writes, teaches writing workshops and entertains her children in Northern California.


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