Marjorie Sussman and Marion Pollack have made Orb Weaver cheeses on this farm for more than 27 years. They are pioneers and legends in the business. I tasted their cheeses only once or twice before, years ago. I recalled them being sheep milk cheeses. I was disabused of this memory by six Jersey cows and Marjorie’s scolding, “People think women can’t have cows.” Marjorie and Marion seem surprised and amused by the growth of the American artisan cheese industry and by the many new young businesses that have cropped up around them. “We never really thought of this as a business,” Marjorie told us. “Maybe that’s why we never made any money,” Marion added.
Orb Weaver cheese comes in two styles—one a milky, moist, yellow-waxed dome, the other a harder, more concentrated natural-rinded, cave-aged version. Marjorie and Marion only make cheese from November to May. “Who wants to be in a hot, humid make room in the summer?” Marjorie asked rhetorically, adding that the sweet, green hay they feed their cows through the winter makes a better cheese than summer pasture. They don’t make much cheese, around 6000 lbs a year, and what they make is mostly earmarked for sale in Chittendon County. I wonder if my charm is sufficient to coax a few wheels for my store. It is not.
During the summer they grow vegetables for sale at their market garden. Their shallots are the size of a fist, their onions as big as honeydews.
They showed us their little make room with their old wooden cheese presses. I could not picture them scooping curd from their high-sided steel vat. They are not tall women and drowning feet up in curd seemed a hazard. Their cheese cave is dug into the hillside, buttressed by giant slabs of local stone. One is adorned with a perfect fossil of some ancient spiraling marine gastropod.