Meet Our Founder 'The Cheese Queen'
I am multifaceted, eccentric and to some, a little bit crazy... But I love what I do!
I’m Ricki Carroll, I live in Ashfield MA and I’m affectionately known as The Cheese Queen.
New England Cheesemaking Supply Company has evolved over the years. Today we send out orders all around the world.
In March we were in the Oprah magazine… We’ve had full page New York Times articles… And probably been in every magazine and newspaper in the country over the past 40 years…
And I’m still wearing dungarees!
My book Home Cheese Making, now In its 4th edition, has sold hundreds of thousands of copies.
We were on The Today Show when our book first came out in the 80’s.
It’s hard to believe that one little pebble thrown in the water can make such a big ripple.
The day after we got married my husband and I bought a house.
It was big and needed a lot of work, and 11 people moved in with us.
At the time, we were running an alternative detention center in our home, for boys, from the time they were arrested to the time they went to court.
During that time they built a barn with us, cared for animals, grew their own food, went fishing in the lake...
One day a neighbor came over and said, I think you should get some goats…
So we got two goats. But neither my husband nor I knew how to milk goats at the time.
This was back in 1976.
We started getting a lot of milk and we didn’t know what to do with it.
That's when we started making cheese… We experimented, things were turning out pretty funky.
Our cheese was yellowish, and brownish, and grey, and mushy… And there was nobody in the country who could help us make cheese on a small scale.
So we started writing letters to embassies around the world, asking if there was anyone in their countries who could teach us how to make cheese at home.
After receiving a response, we traveled to England for two weeks.
We stayed with a family who was making cheese, just for themselves, on their farm. And we learned a lot.
When we got home we decided to have workshops and teach people what we learned.
Many people who came to our workshops became artisanal cheese makers.
But it was very difficult for artisanal cheese makers early on because there was no way to buy supplies in small quantities.
So we began importing supplies from all over the world, in large quantities, and split them up so we could provide cheese makers with smaller quantities.
What would we do in the United States if we didn’t have artisanal cheese makers?
We’d be eating Velveeta, we’d be eating pre-packaged cheese slices…
One of the benefits of making your own cheese is you know what goes into your food.
I think we’ve gotten so far away on a lot of levels from our food source that making it ourselves brings us back to a healthier place.
The more we can make ourselves, or buy locally, the better it is for all of us.
Cheese is made with love, it’s taken care of on a daily basis by the cheese maker.
I think the artisanal cheese makers of this country have helped us all realize that Americans can make really good cheese.
With home cheese making there is another another aspect, fun and family.
That’s why I teach beginner cheese makers that it is fun and easy to make cheese at home.
I get letters from people all over the world.
I love getting these letters, it keeps me connected with everyone who is on the receiving side of what I do.
Recently we sent ingredients and equipment to countries in Africa. The letters we got back said it helped increase their income ten times by simple making Sour Cream and Yogurt.
Cheese making is not all I do in my life.
For my entire life I have worked hard to get groups together through community building.
I host many events at my home for people to get together. Including singing workshops.
We’ve had Appalachian workshops, gospel workshops…
We even hosted a 10 day singing camp for 45 people. Along with weekly drumming circles for a year and a half where we’d play outside on the front porch and in the yard.
I believe what I’ve done in this business is create a community through cheese making.
Although it may not be the fine art I studied in college... This process has become my art.
It’s the art of cheese making… the art of fun.. the art of bringing families and communities together.
My house is put together in a fashion that makes me smile.
There was one point where I thought, if I wasn’t in my art studio in my attic, I wasn’t really making art.
And then I thought, wait a minute, I’ve simply expanded and grown, and now my whole house and my life have become my pallet.
The world we choose hasn’t been imposed upon us from without but comes into being through us.
In every moment we collaborate in the ongoing work of creation. Including the creation of ourselves.
This really epitomizes life for me, because we’re all creations and nobody can be like anybody else.
You are your own self.
This is very similar to the recipes of cheese making.
How do you make an exact recipe? The answer is, you can’t. You make it into your own, and simply use the recipe as a starting place.
How do you replicate a painting… How can you write the same as someone else… You can’t.
Everything you make becomes your own. And that is what keeps me excited and alive.