Dairy Connection COVID-19 Information - Learn More

Meet the Cheesemaker: 10 Questions

Lisa JacobsEvery month we will ask a successful cheesemaker to share a few things about themselves and their passion for making cheese. This month we spoke with Lisa Jacobs, gregarious owner and busy cheesemaker at Jacobs Creamery in Washington State.

How and when did you get into the business of making cheese?

I was reading a story about a family in the Alps and their working farm. When I came to the part when the grandmother was going to take her granddaughter to teach her how to make the family cheese I immediately put the book down and found a cheese class to attend. It was the first time that I thought about making cheese and the enthusiasm I felt for it has only grown!

Please tell us a little about your typical workday.

My typical work day is not very typical! On cheese make days it starts at 3:45 am and often goes till later in the evening, cleaning and flipping and prepping for the next days production. On market days I am up at 4am and drive a loaded truck to Portland. I set up the booth and sell the cheeses and head back to the farm to take care of the cheeses, the hens and do the daily chores. Overall it is very physical and engaging. I love the fact that I get to experience customers enjoyment in my products and share why they are special- I love coming back to the farm and seeing the hens at sunset and that last peek into the aging room. A typical day ends with me walking home past the vineyard and listening to the creek and being thankful that I am a cheesemaker.

What are your proudest achievement(s) thus far? 

Since I grew up in the city with goal of becoming a lawyer in mind, I didnt start my adventure into cheesemaking with a background knowledge of pumps, basic electrical and plumbing and the tools and arm muscles to go with it! There are many challenges to cheesemaking but my proudest achievements have been when refrigeration has failed and instead of panicking I grabbed a bag and some tools and went to work on fixing it- the best feeling ever when I change something from not working to functioning! Cutting into a block or wheel of cheese and smelling nutty, creamy, brothy notes and tasting multi flavor cheese with pleasant lingering notes and thinking- wow I cant believe I can do something like that! Making cheese and fixing equipment are high notes but looking back and seeing the process of how I got here, realizing that my tenacity has landed me right where I want to be makes me proud.

Looking back, can you tell us about any unexpected or difficult hurdles that you dealt with in this field of work?

Looking back I can tell you that were lot of hurdles that were unexpected and difficult! My grandfather once told my Dad 'That life is a series of hurdles and as soon as you jump over one the next one is right in front of you". My Dad who has been very supportive would tell me this when I would call him in turmoil with a problematic situation. I like it because it gets me thinking I should be prepared for the next hurdle. I find if I am anticipating it and planning for it when it comes its not nearly as bad.

Who was the person who most influenced you in your career, and how?

The people that have made the most influence have been those with incredible work ethics as well as those that always maintain a positive attitude, regardless of the situations. I discovered if you are willing to work at it and have a good attitude than your ahead of the game regardless of the situation. My Dad has been the most influential, besides being brilliant he is funny and has the most admirable work ethic of anyone I know. 

Do you have a favorite quote or saying?

What doesn't kill you makes you stronger. 

What's in your grilled cheese sandwich?

Nothing because I don't have time to make one. 

What do you like to do when you aren't busy making cheese?

When I am not processing I am packaging, cleaning and selling. Hobbies, socializing and sleeping regularly went out the window a long time ago!

What would I buy if I won the lottery?

I would buy tons and tons of milk and prepary my milk bill for the rest of my life while also going online and buying a butter churn (assuming it was a BIG lottery) I would go for a Ducati Superbike with 195hp and the new Superquadro engine.

Any tips for budding professional cheesemakers?

For the budding professional cheesemaker I suggest that they donate their time to an operation they admire and fully integrate themselves in the operation, get clear about what you want.