The Finger Lakes Cheese Trail started in 2010 to bring small family farms and cheesemakers together, giving them a stronger presence than they could have on their own. It is a collaborative of these small farms whose goal is to drive business and visitation to the farms and help bolster tourism in the Finger Lakes Region as an agri-tourism attraction. It became the Finger Lakes Cheese Alliance in 2016 to broaden its mission to be more about the cheeses and the many places they are available in addition to farm visitation.
In order to become a member of the Finger Lakes Cheese Alliance, you must be an artisan cheese maker in or adjacent to the 14 counties of the Finger Lakes as officially designated by the State of New York.
As of 2017, the Finger Lakes Cheese Alliance has 12 Member Farms: 8 Destination Farms and 4 Production-Only Farms/Producers.
Destination Farms are farms with a farm store and published hours. They encourage and welcome visitation throughout the year.
Production-Only Farms are farms and producers that do not have farm stores or hours. They can be found at local farm markets as well as offsite Alliance events and the Finger Lakes Cheese Festival. Most participate in Alliance events, whether at a site on their farm or an offsite location.
In 2013, the Finger Lakes Cheese Alliance started accepting Associate Members. These are businesses that support the Alliance by carrying member's cheeses, sending visitors to the farms or using their cheeses in their businesses. The Cheese Alliance encourages our visitors and partners to support these wonderful businesses first.
The actual areathat makes up the Alliance stretches across the entire Finger Lakes Region, with the highest concentration of farms is around Seneca and Cayuga Lakes in a 3-county area: Schuyler, Seneca, and Tompkins.
Unlike the region's wine trails, the Finger Lakes Cheese Alliance members are quite spread out. In fact, if you were to go to all the farms on the trail, be prepared to put around 500 miles on your car.
TOURS & GROUPS
Many of our Destination Farms can handle large groups and buses, as long as you MAKE ARRANGEMENTS IN ADVANCE. Please call the farms you wish to visit and set up a time. If you would like help setting up a multiple farm tour for your group, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The following farms are Group-Friendly/Bus-Friendly Farms:
Engelbert Farms, Nichols: 607-699-3775
Shtayburne Farm, Rock Stream: 315-270-2249
Side Hill Acres Goat Farm, Candor: 607-659-4121
Sunset View Creamery, Odessa: 607-594-2095
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
HOW DO I CONTACT THE ALLIANCE?
Because the Alliance is made up of 12 different members, there is no single phone number. The best way to contact us is through our Alliance email:
WHAT IS ARTISAN OR FARMSTEAD CHEESE?
Artisan cheese is hand crafted cheese made in small batches -- on the farm, at a local production farm, or at a local cheese making facility. It generally uses the farm's own milk in it's own production.
Farmstead cheese goes one step further. It is artisan cheese where the entire process -- from milking to production to aging -- takes place on the cheesemaker's own farm.
WHY DON'T ALL FARMS HAVE THE SAME HOURS?
These are small family farms and often staff the farm stores with family members -- the same family members who feed and milk the herd, plow the fields, deliver the product to local stores and wineries, take the cheese to local farmers markets and handle all the farm chores. So the short answer is, there are only so many hands to go around. That's why it's best to always call in advance because farm emergencies come up that requires the family's attention.
HOW COME THE FARMS DON'T LABEL TOGETHER UNDER THE FINGER LAKES CHEESE ALLIANCE BRAND?
Each farm in the Alliance is its own individual business, with its own business plan, and its own level of growth. Each farm has its own brand and brand identity, and therefore produces, labels and markets their products according to their individual marketing plans and business goals.
The Alliance is meant to bring these unique farms together as a working collaborative for marketing and events, not necessarily as business partners.
WHAT'S THE BEST WAY TO TOUR THE FINGER LAKES CHEESE ALLIANCE'S TRAIL?
The Finger Lakes Cheese Alliance's trail is spread out over 500 miles across the entire Finger Lakes. It's not like a wine trail, where you pull out of one driveway and right into the next. There can be as many as 30-40 miles in between farms. So the best way to do it is make a day of it. Pick 4 or 5 farms that are relatively close to each other and plan your route using our Google Map. Bring a cooler to store your cheese in, and be sure to enjoy the small towns and communities you will got through as your tour -- stopping for lunch, wine, shopping or sightseeing.
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