(Host) Ever wonder what happens to all the milk that comes from the cows on display at Vermont’s county fairs? Until recently, it got picked up by milk co-ops.
But last year, co-ops stopped taking dairy products from fairs. And that left farmers – and fairs – in a bind.
So they came up with a creative solution they call "Dairy on the Moove."
VPR’s Charlotte Albright got a taste of it at the Orleans Fair in Barton over the weekend.
(Fair) "Would you like to try our cheese? Fresh made this morning…"
(Albright) There’s a brand new milking parlor at the Orleans Fair. And right beside it is an even newer, more unusual contraption.
The milk from the parlor is pumped directly into a van that holds a 100-gallon vat and assorted cheese making equipment and ingredients.
Ivory colored cheddar cheese curds are bubbling to the top, ready to be cooled and sold to hungry fair goers – four bucks for a half pound bag.
(Fair) "They’re from the cows that were milked right here yesterday morning…"
(Albright) Hawking the cheese curds is Pam Tetreault, whose husband, Mike, is vice president of Poulin Grains.
She says things looked bleak a year ago when the haulers said they would no longer take milk from the fairs, and many dairy farmers considered staying home, rather than wasting all that milk.
(Tetreault) "So this idea is generated where, you know, we can give the farmers the price for their milk and we can use the milk right here to process it as an educational experience for kids."
(Albright) And not JUST kids. One of the first customers to munch on the curds is Vermont Secretary of Agriculture Roger Albee.
He then ceremoniously signs the license allowing the curds to be sold.
Albee praises the handful of visionaries-and over 50 donors who raised the $75,000 for the Cheese on the Moove project-for finding a way to keep the cows– and farmers–contented at county fairs. He thinks this mobile cheese-making factory is the first of its kind in the United States.
(Albee) "A year later through all these efforts they’ve been able to build something that represents what Vermont has become known for-it’s artisanal cheese and now cheese curds … which are addictive."
(Albright) And Albee isn’t the only curd enthusiast.
(Leonard) "My name is Lila Leonard and I am eating cheddar cheese curds at the Barton Fair. Never had them and the bag is almost gone. These actually taste like mozzarella string cheese but they’re in unusual shapes and pieces."
(Albright) "So you can’t get any fresher."
(Leonard) "Absolutely not. And they squeak on your teeth and they say that’s how you tell that it’s fresh."
(Albright) With any luck, and more Yankee ingenuity, the Dairy on the Moove van moves to Caledonia Fair this week.
For VPR News, I’m Charlotte Albright, in Barton.