UPDATE: Invest and Save Keswick Creamery

Keswick's Vermeer

UPDATE: From Paul Lawler: "Thanks for posting about Keswick Creamery/Carrock Farm but the situation has changed. 

Cheesemaker Melanie Dietrich Cochran emailed me last night to tell me to stop spreading the news. The family's lawyer realized that due to new changes in SEC law their Cheddar Notes scheme is illegal. So please pull the posts if you can. I will let you know as if another plan develops where those who want to help can direct their energies."

Last night, I received this email from Paul Lawler, an employee at the Fair Food Farmstand. He argues the case much more eloquently than I ever could, so I'll paste his message below:

I'm writing you with a really special request: one of our suppliers (and my former employers) Keswick Creamery from Cumberland Co. is in crisis mode trying to raise money pronto to keep their cows and most of their farm from being sold off—like as in $200,000 by mid month. Crazy right?  After which point cows and machinery will be sold and followed by the farm being put for auction. Once it goes for auction it will most likely not be bought right away but the family that has been running it for nearly 40 years may or may not be able to buy it.

If this farmstead goes off the map not only does FF (and Weaver's Way & Kimberton Whole Foods) lose delicious pudding, ricotta, quark and numerous raw milk cheeses but PA will lose invaluable members of the sustainable community in the Deitrich Cochran family. What Keswick is proposing is that patrons purchase Cheddar Notes, essentially shares that are like savings accounts or a CD, only with a better every 6th month interest return of 3.5%.

What the family is too shy to mention is that they are also awesome members of the sustainable community and buy supporting them we are helping support PA’s deliciousness and sustainability quotient manifold. Last year they founded a now thriving co-operative called Natural Newburg to help bring the goods of not just Keswick but all their immediate six sustainable neighboring family farms as well to the greater Philly area. Over the years Mark and Mel have pushed the development of raw artisinal grass-based dairy in PA and the region by teaching others farmers (and interns) how to get started. They have been very active organizers and donors for PASA (Pennslyvania Assocation for Sustainable Agriculture), who for many years have put on the largest conference on sustainability on the east coast. We feel the benefit of PASA as Philly area consumers every time we purchase from some new farmer who learned “x” new growing method or  taste a new cheese from a dairy farm who took a cheese cave building class at PASA.

From the farmers:

Dear Friends,

Would you like to make a profitable investment in a worthwhile (and credit-worthy) small-scale, local enterprise? Buying a “Cheddar Note” from Keswick Creamery is a great way to accomplish this. Since 1974, my parents have been dairy farming and milking registered Jersey cows.

In 1996, my husband, Mark and I graduated from Virginia Tech, his degree is in English and mine is Dairy Science. In 1997 we returned to the family farm to start Keswick Creamery. We made our first cheese in February 2001 and started selling at the Dupont Circle Freshfarm Market in late fall of 2001.

My parents are divorcing and my father wants to “cash out” his half of the farm, quickly. Mark and I would like to buy his share of the farm to continue farming and making cheese here, and are seeking investors to help through the sale of interest-bearing Cheddar Notes. Rather than paying all that interest to the bank, we would much prefer to pay it to you, our friends and customers. The relationship is mutually beneficial: we provide you a return on your investment at a rate higher than your bank pays you, while we receive financing for a lower rate than our bank would charge us.

A Solid and Growing Business:

We think we are a safe bet for investors. My mom has been dairy farming for thirty-six years and we have been operating Keswick Creamery and farming alongside her for ten years. We are family farmers in South Central Pennsylvania, milking dairy cows and producing a variety of cheeses, fresh and aged in our own licensed cheese plant right here on the farm. We are farming organically and humanely. We are in this business full-time and support ourselves (and our daughter) on it alone. In 2009 we sold over $250,000 of cheese. We currently employ (in addition to family) one full time and three part time people from our local community. We have deep roots here and intend to stay. The farm, equipment and processing plant and equipment have a value of over $800,000. We continue to become more productive each season and continue to diversify. Cheddar Notes will allow us to continue our vision here.

The Wax on Cheddar Notes:

A Cheddar Note comes in the form of a “demand note”. This means that the money lent is payable at any time you request, in one lump sum. (The actual language on the face of the note is “On demand we jointly promise to pay…”) Buying a note is easy to do: simply send us a check and we will mail you a signed note. To keep our bookkeeping manageable, we offer Cheddar Notes only in $500 increments.

On December 1, 2010 and every six months thereafter we will pay interest—currently 3.5% annually—on the amount you have invested. The rate of interest we pay is tied directly to current money market rates, and will be adjusted every six months beginning December 1. Along with each interest payment, you will receive a new note bearing the adjusted rate.

It’s as straightforward and uncomplicated as we can make it. If you would like more information about Cheddar Notes or about our business, feel free to call. We’d be glad to talk with you about all of this. We hope you see this as a great opportunity to invest in your local farmers, get a better rate than your savings account, and put your money to work for the cheese and pudding you love to eat. We hope to hear from you soon.

Sincerely yours,
Mark and Melanie Dietrich Cochran
717-440-4650, keswick@pa.net