This is the text of Ralph’s acceptance speech for Canal Junction Farm’s 3rd Good Food Award for our “Charloe” cheese. Thank you for your support for our farm which made it possible for us to participate in this contest.
I want to say thank you for the opportunity to be here this evening and I am honored and humbled to have been selected to say a few words. I would like to personally recognize all the other winners and our fellow Midwestern recipients, Green Dirt Farm & Uplands Cheese, and commend each and every one for their fine work.
I would like to thank the Good Food Foundation for supporting and encouraging artisan and sustainable food production, and organizing this recognition program which gives small producers incentive to keep working to high standards, not only for the products themselves, but raising the standards of the industry. Recognition at a national level such as this helps us market our products, which comes with a unique set of challenges given our geographic location in NW Ohio — not the first part of the country to embrace grass-fed and sustainable.
As I grew up I lived on a farm that was farmed conventionally. In 1993 we made a change: we started building fences, planting grasses and clovers, an then turned the animals out to graze, transitioning the farm to a grass-based model. This helped to revitalize and save my family’s farm, which was homesteaded in the early 1850’s, making this 5th generation farmer hopeful for a legacy to pass on in agriculture; thus saving a family operation, which has allowed the 6th and 7th generations to maintain a working landscape and continue the legacy.
We realized that grass grazing cattle was something unique in Ohio in the 90’s, which led us to start direct marketing our meat, but not our milk at first. In the early 2000’s we started researching how we could direct market dairy, and cheese was the most viable option. Our son Brian, who spent time working at Gubbeen Farm in West Cork, Ireland, was inspired to create a cheese unique to our farm. We called it Charloe, and that is the cheese we are receiving a Good Food Award for today.
Being in the presence of all the other recipients this evening gives breath to the often exhausting work that we put into our products. The steadfastness to the craft that everyone here demonstrates encourages us all to continue.