David Asher has been a member of CCEC since 2007 which is also the time he has been sharing his knowledge on the culture of cheese. David takes a political stance against Big Dairy and criticizes both standard industrial and artisanal cheesemaking practices. He encourages us to source good raw milk, promotes the use of ethical animal rennet, protests the use of laboratory-grown freeze-dried cultures, and explores how GMO technology is creeping into our cheese.
Why I belong to CCEC: I joined to keep my money in my community, and to divest from the corporate investments that underpin the conventional banking system. Its such a comfortable place for me to bank, and I cherish the rare opportunity to visit when I come to Vancouver from the Gulf Islands. And it’s so respectable too; what other banks send out emails with the statement.
David just published his book, The Art of Natural Cheesemaking, and is currently on a North American tour to network, share his knowledge and to educate us on how to "take back our cheese". So, what does that mean?
Over 10 years ago, while studying at UBC and volunteering at UBC farm, David decided to become a farmer. He visited a co-operative farm in the Fraser Valley where he had his first taste of a homemade cheese, made by the farm manager with her raw goats milk. He says that tasting the amazing cheeses aged in her own cave provided the spark for him to try cheesemaking at home. However, as his milk bills started going through the roof, he decided it was time to leave the city and find a cow.
It was at Varalaya farm on Mayne Island (with his farming mentor Ron Pither, founding member of CCEC) that he did his first organic farming apprenticeship, and had his first taste of raw milk. He got his own goats and kept them in community as everything is better in community. He says that the fresh raw milk made all the difference to the natural cheeses, which just don't work right with overprocessed and pasteurized milk.
The realization that raw milk was most suited to cheesemaking gave him a sense that maybe raw milk is better for us than your average store bought milk. and restrictions on its sale take away consumers rights to choose the most healthy and nourishing foods they could eat.
Asher's Black Sheep School of Cheesemaking is a traveling cheese school that offers workshops in partnership with food-sovereignty-minded organizations and communities. He feels that these groups are reconnecting people to the food, the farmers and the land that sustain them. They bring folks together round the dining table, and educate and empower consumers to make more sustainable food choices, and The Black Sheep School's educational offerings fit right in with their directives. Together, they are helping to build a stronger and more just food system.
David is an advocate for consumer access to good raw milk. He feels that better access to raw milk will help improve our cheesemaking culture. He says, "We just don't make cheese as part of our culture here in North America, and this is in large part due to systemic fear of raw milk, and limits on its access." Raw milk makes a more simple cheesemaking, and a more delicious cheese, and as we learn to work with it safely, people will realize that making home-made dairy products is entirely possible.
David is on a North American cheese tour promoting his book with the help of his publishers, Chelsea Green. He is very excited to share his cheesemaking message with the world, and when he returns wants to set up his Black Sheep School of Cheesemaking on the Gulf Islands.
For more information and to buy his book, click here for the Chelsea Green publishers or visit Amazon.