FarmLove: Cabot Farmers on the Road
Summer road trips are a tradition for lots of families—and the Cabot family is no exception.
And one thing we know for sure, you should never go on a road trip without snacks. Preferably of the cheesy kind. 😉
Cabot farmer-owner Rachel Freund and Cole Van Seters have been on a summer road trip to beat all road trips: seeing the sights and spreading the cheddar love through the beloved co-op tradition of performing Random Acts of Cheddar.
Rachel grew up on her family’s farm in East Canaan, Connecticut where she most recently worked as herd manager, making sure the 300 cows are happy and healthy. Cole, who she met in Vermont at college, was also working on Freund’s Farm until the couple decided to take a break and embark upon a cross-country adventure.
Just so happened there was a nice red and black refrigerated Cabot van filled with cheese looking for someone to escort it around the country. The goal was to share some cheddar and the story behind the co-op of families who care for the cows who make the milk that makes the cheddar (and yogurt and cream cheese and sour cream and…) that people all around America love so much.
From New York to Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Oklahoma, Texas, Arizona, California, Oregon and then on to Utah and Colorado they have driven more than 7,000 miles and given away more than 800 pounds of cheese in more than 25 cities! (Note: Texans love hot habanero cheddar.)
Rachel and Cole were no strangers to being public farmer faces for Cabot having done Gratitude Tours and store demos before, but this is a whole new level of ambassadorship. “It feels good,” she says, “to help people all over the country make direct connections with a real family farmer, to tell stories that are personal.”
Highlights of their trip so far include the smiles of surprise when the pair arrives unannounced at a nonprofit or service organization including libraries, fire departments and senior centers to say thank you to staff and volunteers and offer free cheese. “Some of them can’t believe that we’re bringing them free cheese,” Rachel says. “It’s all about giving back to people who are making their communities better.”
A particularly special experience in Tulsa included a Cabot connection to Jeri Tucker, a retired police officer, who arranged for Rachel and Cole to visit to a 911 call center and a memorial for fallen police officers. “That was a pretty powerful experience,” Rachel says.
Other events and visits have involved dressing up in cow costumes; handing out cheese samples in parades, in botanical gardens and at music festivals; getting a personal tour of Meredith Media Des Moines headquarters (publishers of Better Homes & Gardens and People magazines, among others); and landing a front row view to awesome July 4 fireworks.
Of course, as with every road trip, there have been some bumps in the road: that time they had to buy 100 pounds of ice to keep the cheddar cold because the refrigerated part of the refrigerated truck went on the fritz, and that other time when “Cole wouldn’t stay on his side of the seat, Mom!” (not really! 😊)
What has struck the pair is how interested people are in knowing where their food comes from, that it’s healthy and safe for their family and that they’re putting their money in good places, Rachel sums up. “I don’t think a lot of people get to meet their farmers. I feel like we’re performing a service not only for our Cabot farmers but for farmers of all kinds.”
It’s gratifying, Cole adds, “When you make a connection with someone, when they realize that Cabot is a co-op, not just another corporate brand, when someone leaves the table and says they’re going to buy Cabot because now they’ve actually met a farmer whose milk goes into those products.”
“The other thing,” Rachel says, “that surprised us a bit traveling to so many different places: we’ve met so many strangers along the way and yes, they’re different but everyone has been friendly, generous and helping each other out, interested in learning about each other. People are really just people.”