Handmade Locally. Celebrated Globally.
CENTRAL POINT, OR – Meet Matilda and Charlie, two of the most hard-working members of the Rogue Creamery operation. They are intelligent, dependable, and technically efficient. They are continuously productive, but never get tired. Okay, Matilda and Charlie may need a little maintenance from time to time, but that’s because they’re robots, wired to milk the Brown Swiss dairy cows that provide certified organic sustainable whole milk used to make internationally acclaimed handmade cheese.
While it’s noteworthy that 120 cows grazing along the Rogue River in Grants Pass are trained to schedule their own milking sessions with Matilda and Charlie, in the end, it is all about the cheese at Rogue Creamery in both Medford and Grants Pass, Oregon. And this is where automation takes a back seat to the artistry, creativity and global sensitivity that’s at the forefront of all that happens through company owners and award-winning cheesemakers David Gremmels and Cary Bryant.
“Making cheese is engaging – physically and mentally. It’s the perfect activity for taking your mind off of the entire world,” says David. “At the same time, we are mindful of the planet, so we’re working towards full-circle sustainability and basing our vision on three words: Safe, Healthy and Optimistic.”
With a corporate culture that embraces sustainability, it’s understandable why nearly half of Rogue Creamery employees use alternative methods of transportation for the commute to and from the artisan cheesemaking facility. And when the company landed in Oregon Business Magazine’s Top 5 of Best Green Companies in Oregon several years in a row, no one was surprised. In early 2014, Rogue Creamery became the first registered Oregon Benefit Company (“B” Company), leading the way toward increased social responsibility in the workplace. One year later, the Specialty Food Association presented David with its Business Leadership Award, honoring him for his advanced food standards and artistic vision that has impacted society, economics and the environment.
All this as David and Cary continue mastering the art of cheese making by providing a healthy sustenance food that they say ‘nourishes the mind and the body.’ “We incorporate the personality and flavors of the region in our products, from the climate, to the soil and the water flowing from the Rogue River” explains David. “Water is a component of milk and the river here makes our cheese even better.”
Better cheese is why Rogue Creamery won the 2015 Gold award at the U.S. Cheese Championships for its Rogue River Blue, and why their Smokey Blue took second place. In 2014, Rogue Creamery’s Caveman Blue was among the top 3 Super Gold winners in the World Cheese Awards in London, England and in the American Cheese Society Awards, Rogue Creamery won Best of Show in 2009 and 2011 with a second place win in 2014.
David and Cary didn’t start out as world-class cheesemakers, rather as connoisseurs and entrepreneurs. In 2002, they were opening a wine and cheese bar in Ashland and went on the hunt for local artisan cheese suppliers. This is when they were introduced to Ig Vella, who was on the verge of closing the family business that had fed WWII troops in many countries and had become Oregon’s first supplier of cottage cheese. So, instead of making an offer to purchase cheese, David and Cary ended up making an offer to purchase the business. Right away, they began to innovate.
“The entrepreneurial spirit is the spirit to move forward in line with your values so you can create a catalyst for the evolution of a culture and community,” says David. “Making cheese was in line with what we value as food, and we knew that we wanted to incorporate our culture of sustainability within the organization.”
In the early days, David and Cary remember how much they counted on the resources of SOREDI, especially when it became necessary to restore the facility and upgrade equipment. “SOREDI stepped up and supported us when we needed it the most,” David explains. “We couldn’t have done it without them.”
Today, David and Cary are on the cutting edge with milking robotics and their Nellie Green Program, which involves solar, recycling, waste reduction, employee incentives, and other sustainable practices. And, they are on the Southern Oregon Edge with those who have the same commitment to healthful foods. “What we love the most,” explained David “is that the vibrancy of the people and their passions are exponentially much greater here, and that is exciting.”
David Gremmels, President/Cheesemaker
Cary Bryant, CEO/Cheesemaker
311 N. Front St.
Central Point, OR 97502