Dairy Defined Podcast: How NMPF Pulled Off a Virtual Cheese Contest

The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted lives and transformed everything from schooling and shopping habits to … cheese contests. It’s not something most people think about, but in a time of social distancing and curtailed travel, how exactly does one gather, sample, compare and celebrate world-class cheeses, virtually?

This was the question National Milk Producers Federation coordinators Jamie Jonker and Miquela Hanselman set out to answer – and their solutions were cheese-tastic, to say the least. Judging conducted from multiple locations, donated storage spaces and smaller cheese blocks played their role – as did continual ingenuity from a team determined not to let a pandemic upend a cherished dairy tradition.

NMPF announced the winners of its first-ever virtual cheese contest – one believed to be the first nationwide U.S. cheese contest of the virtual era – last week. This week’s Dairy Defined Podcast tells the tale of the Cheese Contest That Could, featuring Jonker, Hanselman, and Head Cheese Judge Allison Reynolds of the USDA, facilitated by NMPF Communications Manager Theresa-Sweeney Murphy.

“I think it’s important that while we are in strange and unique times because of the pandemic, that some things still continue to happen as normal course of order,” said Jonker, NMPF’s staff scientist and a 16-year veteran of the competition. “The most rewarding part is that, unless we told people about how we did it, most people wouldn’t understand that it was any different from other years. And I think that’s a testament to the great team that we’ve got at National Milk, our cheese judges, and our co-ops that enter the cheese every year for really making it seem like nothing was different, even though everything was different.”

To listen to the full discussion, click here. You can also find this and other NMPF podcasts on Apple Podcasts, SpotifySoundCloud and Google Play. Broadcast outlets may use the MP3 file. Please attribute information to NMPF.