Mike Koch, FireFly Farms

Every year at the Farmland Feast, our annual fundraising celebration that showcases the glories of the local food revolution, we ask one of our farmers or producers to give the keynote address to share their unique stories and path to the farm. We do this because they are at the root of changing how Washingtonians eat and shop for their food.

This year award-winning cheese maker Mike Koch of Firefly Farm spoke about his hope for the farmers of the future and the impact FRESHFARM Markets has had on the success of his artisanal goat cheese making business. Here’s an excerpt from his speech:

“As we mark the 15th year of FRESHFARM Markets and the 10th year of this wonderful Farmland Feast, I am energized as I imagine what the next 15 years will bring.

FireFly Farms also celebrates an anniversary this year our 10th year of hand making goats milk cheese in the mountains of western Maryland. 10 years ago, at the first Farmland Feast held at Ristorante Tosca, FireFly Farms MountainTop Bleu was served so FRESHFARM Markets support for FireFly Farms began at this very event 10 years ago when Chef Cesare Lanfranconi choose to serve our cheese at the inaugural Feast.

FireFly is also celebrating our 1st anniversary in our new 4,000 square foot creamery this creamery and our first retail store that is now attracting visitors to Deep Creek Lake and showing how agriculture and artisanal food production can provide jobs and attractions in rural America.

Since we are talking about farming and food production, Id like to pose a few questions about agriculture.

  • How many of you are farmers?
  • How many of your parents were farmers?
  • How many of your grandparents were farmers?

I think you get where I am going. We dont have to go back too many generations before we discover almost everyone had a connection to farms and farmers.

My hope is that when we could look into the future and ask the question: How many of your grandchildren are or want to be farmers? We might see many more farmers than today.

But I am here to talk about FireFly Farms.

Id like to speak to you in numbers after a 20-year career in finance, I find I still love numbers. Agriculture is a second career for me; a return to the farming roots of my own Swiss-German family. And, more than the pictures and the lofty words about eating locally or sustainably, I think these numbers will give you a sense of the real and enduring economic impact that FRESHFARM Markets has had on our business and local food in the Chesapeake Bay region.

3: The number of cheeses FireFly Farms produced when we began in 2002.
9: The number of products we produce now.

400: Pounds of cheese we produced in 2002.
175,000: Pounds of cheese we expect to produce in 2012.

51: The total number of national and international awards won by FireFly Farms in the past 10 years.

3: The number of jobs provided by FireFly Farms in 2002.
21: The number of jobs we provide today.

1: The number of farms whose goats provided milk to make FireFly Farms cheeses.

5: The number of goat farms we support now.
8 : The number of goat farms we will soon be supporting

30%: The peak percentage of FireFly Farms total annual revenue earned at FRESHFARM Markets in 2007.

3: The factor by which our total gross sales have grown since that year.

100%: The commitment FireFly Farms pledges to FRESHFARM Markets and our continued success.

I could go on, but I think you will agree with me that the numbers tell the real story. Yes, its a story about agriculture and great cheese. But more importantly, its a story about how FRESHFARM Markets, by providing access to consumer markets and real economic opportunity, enabled FireFly, a small farm-based fledgling business, to grow into a formidable force in the American artisanal cheese movement.

Heres to the next 15 years.

Caption: (left to right) Pablo Solanet and Mike Koch of FireFly Farm

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