Dec 31, 2019
By Valery Larson
In the world of artisanal and handcrafted cuisine, there is a highly sought-after grant to honor deserving individuals who are dedicated to making a difference in artisan dairy and cheese production, the Jennifer Bice Artisan Dairy/Cheesemaker Grant. This generous grant is in it’s third year of recognizing and promoting the hard work of the cheese makers, and the love and care they bestow on their animals, creameries and farms.
The grant recipient is chosen by a selection committee and administered by the California Artisan Cheese Guild. All the cheesemakers are so dedicated and hard working. With a 40 plus year history of commitment to creating a caring and thriving business, Jennifer Bice can clearly see the same passion she has felt, in each of the Artisan Cheese Guild members who have applied for the grant. This year’s winner was Michelle and Jack Rudolph of StepladderRanch &Creamery, from San Luis Obispo County. Stepladder has been family-owned and operated for three generations, and with the grant money, Michelle and Jack’s goal is to achieve certified humane status for their farm. It will enable them to build a 1200 sq. foot loafing barn for their goats, which will give the goats more room and allow the business to expand.
To tell the story of the grant and a woman’s desire to give back to her community, one must return to 1968 when a young Jennifer Bice moved with her family from southern California. Her parents chose to live life away from an urban world of cement and noise, to give their kids a back-to-the land connection in the rich earth of Sonoma County, where fruit orchards flourished, and farm animals were as plentiful as people.
Gradually Jennifer embraced her new life and learned the art of animal care by taking part in 4-H projects and life on the farm. Though there were many other kinds of animals in their lives, Jennifer and her siblings were drawn to the goats and their playful curiosity.
When Jennifer’s siblings gradually moved away, Jennifer remained in Sebastopol with her goats as she attended college and business school. In the early 1970’s she met Steven Schack, another southern California transplant. When her parents eventually moved to Hawaii, Jennifer and Steven purchased the business, and in the process of refining all aspects of the farm and creamery, they became skilled animal breeders and won the Premier Breeder of Show award at the American Dairy Goat Association National Show.
The Jennifer Bice Artisan Dairy/Cheesemaker Grant is a culmination of Jennifer’s rich heritage, knowledge and life. It has given past winners opportunity to grow their businesses. It will give present and future grant winners a distinct advantage as they create a more sustainable world and share their love of everything dairy.
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