Governor Terry McAuliffe announced today that Ewes Guys, LLC, doing business as Twenty Paces, will open operations for its new farmstead sheep and goat’s milk cheese production and processing facility in Albemarle County.
The company, which focuses on high-quality, sustainably-made products, will invest $321,000 in a facility at Bellair Farms and create seven new jobs. In addition to producing high-end cheeses and meats for restaurants and specialty cheese retailers, Twenty Paces will ensure the transfer of farming expertise between generations through an apprenticeship program, dedicated to sharing dairy farming knowledge with the community. The Commonwealth is partnering with Albemarle County and Twenty Paces on this project through the Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development (AFID) Fund.
Speaking about the investment, Governor McAuliffe stated, “I am pleased to announce that Twenty Paces will open this new artisanal cheese production facility in Albemarle County, furthering Virginia’s reputation as a leader in the specialty food industry and helping to build the new Virginia economy. With this announcement, we continue to realize the benefits of fully integrating agriculture and forestry into the state’s strategic economic development platform. Supporting entrepreneurs with unique business models is another way for Virginia to grow and diversify our economy.”
With a newly renovated and expanded creamery, Twenty Paces will produce high-quality sheep and goat’s milk, as well as process, age, and distribute farmstead cheeses for a rapidly growing artisanal cheese market in the U.S. A true entrepreneurial start-up, Twenty Paces will also produce grass-fed lamb and goat meat for restaurants and specialty food retailers in the Commonwealth and along the East Coast. This new artisanal product will bolster Virginia’s reputation as a center for artisanal food production. Twenty Paces will use 100% Virginia-grown sheep and goat’s milk for its products.
“Twenty Paces’ investment in this facility is the result of creative entrepreneurs engaged with a supportive community, and the partnership at Bellair Farms is a model for how new local, sustainable agriculture can work,” said Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Todd Haymore, who represented Governor McAuliffe at the announcement. “It is particularly exciting to have young people interested in preserving agricultural heritage and traditions. Continuing to expand agricultural expertise throughout the Commonwealth is an important component to building the new Virginia economy, and I applaud Twenty Paces for its commitment to furthering those traditions by training apprentices at their facility.”
“Twenty Paces’ commitment to producing 100% natural, sustainably-produced artisanal cheeses benefits not only the agricultural economy of the Commonwealth, but consumers along the East Coast and beyond,” added First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe, who also attended the announcement. “Virginia is blessed to have a diversified agricultural economy that provides fresh, wholesome commodities and food products, in addition to thousands of jobs. I also believe that innovative agricultural operations, like Twenty Paces, will help in our mission to bridge the nutritional divide in Virginia.”
Through this investment, Twenty Paces will utilize working farmlands and an existing barn at Bellair Farms to produce its farmstead specialty cheeses, supporting the Commonwealth’s largest economic driver, agriculture. Realizing the importance of the next generation of farmers in Virginia, the company is committed to sharing dairy farm knowledge with others in the community through its apprenticeship program.
“Twenty Paces is honored to be recognized by Albemarle County and the Governor through this AFID grant,” said Kyle Kilduff, co-owner of Twenty Paces. “Their support, as well as the support of Bellair Farm owner, Cynthia Davis, and farm manager, Jamie Barrett, helps ensure the success of Twenty Paces in Virginia’s growing artisanal cheese industry. Twenty Paces is committed and proud to carry on the family farm and entrepreneurial tradition through farmstead cheese production and management-intensive grazing. These practices improve pasture, produce flavorful milk and cheese, and also lower our cost of production, allowing us to provide jobs in our community through a sustainable business model for years to come.”
The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services partnered with Albemarle County to secure this project for Virginia. Governor McAuliffe approved an $11,000 grant from the AFID Fund to assist with the project and Albemarle County will provide an $11,000 cash match.
“Albemarle County is extremely pleased to partner with the Governor and Twenty Paces through this important grant program, which furthers our long standing priority of supporting the County’s agricultural heritage and economy,” said Tom Foley, Albemarle County Executive. “We are very fortunate to have citizens of our community, like Cynthia Davis of Bellair Farms, who demonstrate personal stewardship and commitment to agriculture through efforts like placing Bellair Farms in an historic trust and starting a CSA operation.”
Speaking about the announcement, Senator Creigh Deeds, D-Bath County said, “Living in rural Virginia, I know the importance of a strong agricultural economy and appreciate the Governor’s dedication to this region’s local, small producers. The Governor’s continued support and partnership on economic development opportunities, like the AFID grant, help communities across Virginia, and I am particularly pleased about the positive regional impact this announcement has today.”
According to a 2013 economic impact study conducted by the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, agriculture and forestry are two of Virginia’s largest private industries with a combined economic impact of $70 billion annually. Agriculture generates more than $52 billion per annum, while forestry generates more than $17 billion. The industries also provide more than 400,000 jobs in the Commonwealth. More information about the Weldon Cooper Center’s study can be found at http://www.coopercenter.org/node/2/publications/economic-impacts-agriculture-and-forestry-virginia-revised-2012.