If people who make cheese for a living are crazy, people who make cheese for a living in Alaska are insane. Harsh winter weather conditions are prohibitive for even the most hardy of folk and have a tendency to magnify the everyday hardships of farm life. Despite the odds, there is a new cheesemaker coming to Alaska: Valley Dairy in Palmer, outside of Anchorage. The origins of this new operation go back to last year, when state operated Matanuska Maid Dairy closed, leaving area dairy farmers without a place to send their milk (according to reports, most of the milk is currently being dumped for lack of buyers).
Valley Dairy has emerged to fill the void with an ambitious plan that includes processing fluid milk and the production of other products including ice cream, butter and - yes - cheese. Even more interesting is the fact that the dairy is currently selling cheese futures....what that means, essentially, is that you can buy cheese now but you won't be receiving it until they start production. This creative approach to financing seems to be generating interest and press, which can't be a bad thing. Time will tell how Valley Dairy fares, but for now Alaska dairies are hopeful that it will save them from almost certain demise.
[photo courtesy Thijsfr]