Zingerman's Creamery owner co-founds new guild for Michigan cheese and dairy businesses

Arend Elston, owner and operator of Ann Arbor's Zingerman’s Creamery, is working to uplift small dairy businesses and artisan cheese makers in Michigan as a co-founder of the Michigan Cheese and Dairy Guild. Elston and three other Michigan cheese artisans and retailers came together this year to form the guild to support the needs of other makers throughout the state. 

"Not a lot of businesses are carrying local artisan-made cheese," Elston says. "Michigan is a great agricultural state, but we don’t have many artisan cheese producers, and the few that are out there were trying to come together and collaborate as a team to promote our products as best we can."

Elston says Zingerman’s Creamery is "excited to be a contributor" to the guild due to the creamery's unique offerings in the artisan cheese market, as well as Zingerman’s well-established brand.

"We’re making soft cheese from local cow and goat milk, and gelato from local cow milk. We’re really the only business in the state of Michigan that has that lineup," Elston says. "The Zingerman’s [Community of Businesses] is a very important player here, and it makes a lot of sense the community is involved as well as the creamery being one of the founding members."

The Guild is not only designed to help artisans and business owners, but also to educate the general public on those making the artisan goods they consume, while providing future opportunities to learn the trade of cheesemaking. Upcoming guild events include a class taught by guild co-founder Josh Hall of Leelanau Cheese Feb. 29-March 2 at Michigan State University’s dairy plant, a fundraiser at Zingerman’s Greyline event space, and various networking opportunities for cheese and dairy artisans and retailers. 

"The guild is kind of a marketing arm for businesses like ours," Elston says. "We are impacting the local food ecosystem, we’re making great-award winning products that consumers really enjoy, and we’re furthering the impact of businesses like ours for the food and tourism community. The guild will be right in the middle of all of that."

Elston explains that the success of the guild and its members ultimately impacts not just the food and tourism industries in the state of Michigan, but also the local farms that artisans source their milk from. He hopes the guild’s creation will draw more attention to artisan makers and retailers, which will "further the overall betterment of the artisan cheese and dairy community."

Rylee Barnsdale is a Michigan native and longtime Washtenaw County resident. She wants to use her journalistic experience from her time at Eastern Michigan University writing for the Eastern Echo to tell the stories of Washtenaw County residents that need to be heard.
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