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Mateo Kehler on Giving Capital Back to Rural Communities

Rectangle with a white background and a photo of Jasper Hill Farm Founder Mateo Kehler

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About this episode

In this episode of The meez Podcast, Josh sits down with Mateo Kehler, CEO and co-founder of Jasper Hill Farm, a world-renowned cheese maker, to discuss meaningful work and combating the commoditization of cheese making by reinvesting capital into rural communities.

Jasper Hill Farm is an award-winning cheese-making enterprise that has helped to redefine artisanal cheese production in the United States. The farm, which is based in Greensboro, Vermont, was founded in 1998 by two brothers, Andy and Mateo Kehler. The Kehler brothers were both carpenters concerned about the disappearance of working landscapes in their area due to the rise in real estate values. They decided to buy a rundown 200-acre farm with the goal of creating meaningful work.

Initially, Mateo had no idea what they wanted to do with the land. However, after some contemplation, they decided to start a dairy farm and make cheese. Mateo believed that they could demonstrate that it was possible to make a good living milking 50 cows on a rocky hillside farm, afford health insurance, put their kids through college, and save for retirement. They hoped that their success would inspire others to hop on the farmstead cheese bandwagon.

Today, there are about 85 people in the Jasper Hill family of businesses. The growth and evolution of the enterprise is a testament to the power of people.

Mateo's vision of creating meaningful work in a place they loved and with people they loved has been a resounding success. In 2006, the farm won the Best in Show award at the American Cheese Society for its Cabot Clothbound, made in partnership with Cabot Creamery. This success led to the farm's decision to build a massive underground cellar to age their cheese, with Cabot as their main customer. Today, Jasper Hill Farm works with over 25 cheesemakers, primarily in Vermont, and has become a leader in the American cheese industry, producing some of the most highly awarded cheeses in the country.

The farm has also helped to preserve the working landscapes of Vermont and inspire others to pursue their own dreams of sustainable agriculture.

This conversation with Mateo is both inspiring and educational. Jasper Hill Farm is a shining example of how a deep vision and a commitment to meaningful work can create a lasting legacy. And his story is a reminder that success is not just about making great cheese or running a profitable business. It is about creating something that gives back to the local community and that it can inspire others.

Where to find Mateo Kehler:

Where to find host Josh Sharkey:

What We Cover

(2:47) Finding meaningful work with Jasper Hill

(7:02) Financing a cheese facility

(8:54) Jasper Hill’s dedication to quality

(14:16) Cabot creamery partnership

(22:30) Cheese is a form of capital

(23:08) Supporting local dairy farms

(29:14) Reversing the flow of capital

(31:04) How Mateo reiterates Jasper Hill’s mission

(33:57) Doubling down on quality during the pandemic

(36:54) Why diversity is always good with cheese

(39:43) Experimenting with microbiology

(42:38) Does the quest for quality ever end?

(46:08) Jasper Hill wash collaborations with chefs

(50:28) Mateo’s biggest influence in life


Josh Sharkey [00:00:00]: 

Welcome to the meez Podcast. I'm your host, Josh Sharkey, the founder and CEO of meez,  the culinary operating system for food professionals. On the show, I'll be interviewing world class entrepreneurs in the food space that are shifting the paradigm of how we innovate and operate in our industry. Thanks for listening, and I hope you enjoy the show.


My guest today is the world renowned cheese maker, CEO and co-founder of Jasper Hill Farm, Mateo Kehler. Mateo has not only won every national and international cheese award imaginable, he's more importantly spreading his mission of meaningful work, leading the revolution against the commoditization of the craft of cheese making, and in his own words, reversing the globe capital back into rural communities.


This is one of the most inspiring and educational conversations I've had in a long time. We discussed creating a culture of high standards through actions, the importance of diversity by people and a clear vision matter most in any endeavor and so much. And yes, of course we talk about cheese. I hope you enjoy it.


This podcast is brought to you by meez, the culinary operating system for food professionals. As a chef and restaurant owner for the past 20 years, I was frustrated that the only technology that we had in the kitchen was financial or inventory software. Those are important, but they don't address the actual process of cooking, training, collaboration, and consistent execution.

So I decided if it didn't exist, I'd do my best to get it built. So the current and next generation of culinary pros have a digital tool dedicated to their craft. If you're a chef, mixologist operator, or generally if you manage recipes intended for professional kitchens, meez is built just for you.

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Mateo, welcome to the pod. 

Mateo Kehler [00:02:14]: 

So awesome to be here with you, Josh. 

Josh Sharkey [00:02:16]: 

I'm stoked, man. I've been really excited about this conversation. I know we got connected by our mutual friend Sergio, who works at meez as well. I've known about Jasper Hill for many years, but the way he tells the story is just so illuminating.


And the minute I decided “Let's do a podcast”, we were like, we’ve got to get Mateo on. So thank you for being here. 

Mateo Kehler [00:02:36]: 

Absolutely. And you know, Sergio was there at the birth. He was working for a provisions international distributor in White River and watched us grow up. And in many ways, we grew up together.

Josh Sharkey [00:02:47]: 

Well, for the audience that might not know as much, I think there's a lot of chefs and restaurants and things like that. Maybe you could just tell a little bit about your background, how you got to where you are, and why Jasper Hill exists. 

Mateo Kehler [00:03:00]: 

My brother Andy and I have a long connection to Greensboro and were both carpenters in a previous life. We were building houses, mostly second homes, and watching the fragmentation of the working landscape here. And the dot com bubble was just blowing up real estate values where we were. And we saw ourselves contributing to the extinction of this place that we loved.


So fundamentally, that's like a foundational experience for us. And you know, my family's been summering on Caspian Lake in Greensboro for five generations. We're about to celebrate our hundredth summer on the lake. And Greensboro's a happy place for our family, childhood, and we were basically getting priced out of paradise.


So this piece of land came on the market. It was 200 acres. It was up off the lake, outside of town. And we basically made this emotional, like irrational decision and pulled our life savings and bought this 200 acre, rundown and abandoned farm. No idea what we're gonna do with it. It was really a quest to satisfy three intrinsic needs: meaningful work, in a place that we love, with people that we love.

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