By Lilah Doster
Deeann Lufkin and Jackie Ohmann first decided to attempt making cheese in the fall of 2012. You might say it was a whim. Jackie had married a dairy farmer, so she had a constant supply of delicious milk. Logical, right?
The first time Deeann and Jackie made cheese together they thought it was fantastic, but soon decided to put some serious time into improving it. They kept at it—trying different ingredients to make the perfect cheese. When they created a cheese that looked, felt, smelled and tasted amazing, they knew they were hooked.
They believed that they could start selling their cheese because they enjoyed it so much. They officially started their own local business, CannonBelles Cheese, in 2016. They figured that if their family and friends appeared to enjoy their recipes, the rest of the world should as well. Soon their friend Kathy Hupf teamed up with them. Deeann, Jackie, and Kathy all find it so rewarding to be able to work with each other since they are all such close friends. All three of them come from different backgrounds and all bring something unique to the table. They all have specific roles that complement each other in good ways. In addition, they all love the idea of creating a brand that people enjoy and being able to be a part of the community.
Their quest to start their own cheese business began by going to a number of cheese manufacturers in Minnesota and Wisconsin and learning from everyone. While doing that, they enrolled in classes to gain as much knowledge as possible. They attended events such as FEAST and other farmers markets, and loved making personal face-to-face connections. Their mission for their business was to make something affordable that the entire community could enjoy. They also wanted their brand to be fun, approachable and improve the markets for dairy in Minnesota.
There are so many amazing things occurring for them right now. Currently, they have six employees and a few interns and volunteers. They keep introducing new artisan cheeses that are made in Minnesota with local milk. In addition, they are planning a new plant to be built in Cannon Fall facility set to open in 2022. Deeann, Jackie, and Kathy don’t take themselves too seriously and really just want to have fun. They want to be inclusive with the community and the people around them. Overall, CannonBelles Cheese is an outstanding local business while being an asset to the community. You can spot them in the FEAST! Local Foods Magazine, and the 2021 FEAST! Local Foods Online Marketplace Nov. 14 - Dec. 9 and Festival on December 11 at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester, Minnesota.
Lilah Doster is a junior at the University of Minnesota studying Dietetics. She is very passionate about nutrition and plans to become a Registered Dietitian. Currently, she is volunteering for Renewing the Countryside where she participates in virtual meetings, interviews FEAST! vendors, and helps share their stories.