When Anne Doe submitted her first cheese—an onion-dill chevre spread—to the Big E Expo's cheese competition in 2010, she was just looking for feedback from the judges to improve her next batch. By the time the competition ended, and she'd won her first medal and secured her first wholesale account, she figured she was onto something. 13 years, a dozen new cheeses, and several awards later, Boston Post Dairy is one of our favorite creameries in Vermont; a true family affair with a reputation for delicious firm and bloomy rind goat's milk cheese.
Doe's parents Robert and Gisele Gervais have been farming in Enosburg Falls, Vermont (population: ~500), since 1962. They had 15 children, and many of them have continued the family farming tradition. Theresa Lawyer and her family keep a herd of 400 dairy goats. Doe makes cheese from that milk, while their sister Susan Blouin creates silky-soft soaps and bath products with it. Five of their brothers run the home farm with larger herds of cattle; when the sisters need the aid of heavy farm equipment, siblings are a phone call away.
Boston Post Dairy's creamery opened in 2010. By then, Blouin had been making bath products with the family's goat milk for years, to create more value than what the Gervais' could get on the commodity market. Doe had been tapping maple trees to make syrup and confections. The sisters sold their wares at local farmers markets to surprising success.
"Our parents were amazed at the number of people we pulled in," Doe says. "In 2007, they said, 'you should open a store,' and we said, 'yeah, right, like we have that kind of money!'" Little did she know, her father Robert had made a deal to purchase the Boston Post farm and its 82 acres to give as a gift to the daughters, for use as a home base for their businesses. Doe took artisan cheese courses at the University of Vermont's Institute for Artisan Cheese and started experimenting with her family's goat milk.
In one of her classes, a fellow student remarked that just because she knew how to cook, that didn't mean she knew how to make cheese. Doe took it as a challenge. "Our parents instilled a certain perfectionism in us," she says. "We did a lot on the farm growing up—cooking, cleaning, canning—you name it, we did it. They showed us that if you wanted to do something, you could achieve it. I said I was going to make the best cheese I could."
Not that it was easy. "You don't know what you're doing until you get hands-on experience," Doe continues. "The goats start having babies before you predicted, you're forced to make cheese faster than you wanted, and you learn that you can't get cheesecloth at Joann Fabrics!"
For all the family involvement, Boston Post Dairy is a lean operation. Doe and Blouin have three full-time staff who also work on their own farms, with additional part-time help in busy seasons. The sisters do much of the grunt work themselves. "People think it's fun to make cheese," Doe says about new hires, "then they learn it's 80% cleaning and sanitizing."
In a small town with shrinking agriculture and growing opportunities for remote work, finding and keeping committed labor is a challenge. "I don't see the labor force going in this direction," she explains. "It's taxing on the body and not idyllic like people think it is. Who wouldn't want an easier job?"
So it's important that making excellent cheese is its own reward for Doe. So is providing livable wages for her staff. She and Blouin are always looking for ways to streamline the business so they can provide more benefits for their employees. Doe has just started experimenting with spiced oil marinades for her fantastic goat feta. The idea, she explains, is to expand the product line while filling a niche in Vermont's competitive dairy scene, without requiring more difficult physical labor around the cheesemaking vats.
"The employees we have are top notch," Doe says. "We always want to do better for them and share the successes. Some of them are family—and the ones that aren't, they're family, too."
Photos courtesy of Boston Post Dairy.