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Longmont’s Art of Cheese founder pens book, throws anniversary bash

Kate Johnson will hold a book release and fifth anniversary party at St. Vrain Cidery Wednesday

Kate Johnson, founder of “The Art of Cheese,” teaches a class Thursday at the Briar Gate Farm in Longmont. Johnson is celebrating the release of her book and her business’s 5th anniversary with a party at St. Vrain Cidery on Wednesday.
Kate Johnson, founder of “The Art of Cheese,” teaches a class Thursday at the Briar Gate Farm in Longmont. Johnson is celebrating the release of her book and her business’s 5th anniversary with a party at St. Vrain Cidery on Wednesday.

When one of Kate Johnson’s daughters insisted the family raise a dairy goat named Skittles as part of a 4-H project, little did she know it would spiral into a career. Johnson, owner of Longmont’s The Art of Cheese, now has 17 goats on her five-acre Longmont property — Briar Gate Farm — where she hosts a number of classes allowing culinary enthusiasts to craft their own burrata, ricotta and chèvre.

Wednesday, the local entrepreneur is celebrating five official years in business and the release of her book, “Tiny Goat, Big Cheese: A Farm-to-Table, Hobby-to-Career Odyssey,” with a party at St. Vrain Cidery in Longmont.

“The science, the recipes and the equipment will only take you so far,” said Johnson, founder and lead instructor of The Art of Cheese. “You have to respond to what’s happening. That’s where the art comes in. The cheese will tell you what it needs. You have to learn to speak curd.”

Kate Johnson, owner of “The Art of Cheese,” teaches a class at her property of Briar Gate Farm. Johnson will celebrate the release of her latest book and business’s anniversary at St. Vrain Cidery Wednesday.

When Johnson, a former life coach who also conducted horseback riding camps on her property, saw that people turned out in the thousands for the Colorado Cheese Festival in Longmont, she decided to take the leap. She had casually experimented with cheesemaking, using the milk from her goats, but never considered teaching the process to be a viable livelihood until that moment.

“I said to my husband, ‘I think I need to open a cheesemaking school cause no one is really doing it,’” Johnson said.

After welcoming classes into her home kitchen, conducting sessions at The Rec Center, The Senior Center, Cheese Importers and various breweries, she was invited to set up shop within the education center at Haystack Creamery.

“We just kept growing and growing really organically,” Johnson said.

Submerging herself in the culture, she sought out the guidance of artisanal cheesemakers from coast to coast — making stops in Vermont and San Francisco.

“If I had to learn more, I had to go places,” Johnson said.

When Haystack Creamery eventually needed back the space it had provided her to conduct classes, Johnson saw potential in her own home’s garage. Rarely used to house her and her husband’s vehicles, it has been transformed into a bright space where framed photos of cheese line the walls and vibrant paintings call viewers in for closer inspection. Outfitted with a number of portable burners and various tools, it has been The Art of Cheese’s home base since August.

Johnson also conducts classes at Kitchen Company in downtown Longmont.

“I try to be inclusive,” Johnson said. “My goal is to show that everybody can make cheese, not just those that have dairy animals. It doesn’t need to be as complicated as some people think.”

For class participants, it’s more than just leaving with a delicious variety they can pop in their fridge and pair with Riesling or Bordeaux. The act of stirring ingredients over heat becomes meditative, an almost zen-like practice.

“I find it slows them down in a really busy life,” Johnson said. “You have to embrace it and not rush through.”

Charles Abbott, left, and Marcia Greenblatt work to make mozzarella cheese during an “Art of Cheese” class on Thursday at the Briar Gate Farm.

Visitors can step inside the milking shed, its interior lined with winning ribbons Johnson’s goats have earned over the years. On the farm, overlooking the Rocky Mountain foothills, folks can also check out Seger, her “guard llama” that herds the goats and watches for possible predators.

Kate Johnson having a moment with her llama Seger in Longmont last week. (Kalene McCort / For the Camera)

Also roaming the property are horses Amigo and Dublin, a tribe of uniquely feathered chickens, an orange cat named Rusty and a one-eyed cat named Dusty, who often can be found lapping up goat milk from a dish Johnson rests at her feet between milking the animals.

“There’s this current drive of getting back to basics,” Johnson said. “People want to know what’s in their food — whether it’s making kimchi or making kombucha — cheese is a big part of that.”

At certain classes, a flavor bar featuring fresh jams, smoked spices and raw honey, harvested from Johnson’s husband Brian Johnson’s on-farm beehives, provides an extra layer of color and flavor to the creamy and delectable variations students whip up.

“I took my first cheese class from Kate five years ago,” said longtime student Jennifer Manchester. “I had just returned from a trip to France, where I was impressed with the variety of delicious cheeses for sale, many made with goat or sheep milk instead of the traditional cow’s milk that we are used to in the U.S. Kate’s ‘Beginning Cheesemaking’ class was just the thing to give me the skills and confidence to try making my own cheese.”

Manchester, like many of Johnson’s students, felt the need to keep coming back — diving deeper into the intricacies of crafting bloomy rinds, Halloumi and Gouda.

“My husband and I bought a farm south of Longmont last summer, after years of dreaming,” Manchester said. “I couldn’t wait to have goats. We bought five from Kate, and they are so friendly and curious that I can’t imagine the farm without them.”

Kate Johnson, owner of Longmont’s The Art of Cheese, now has 17 goats on her five-acre Longmont property, Briar Gate Farm. (Kalene McCort / For the Camera)

Johnson’s next goal is to bring the fun and creativity found within her cheesemaking class studio to exotic locales. This February, she and students will travel to Hawaii for a “Cheesemaking in Paradise” retreat. Attendees will stay at a house on Mountain Thunder Coffee Plantation, in Kona, that overlooks the ocean. Retreat-goers will have time to play tourist and also leave the getaway with a gold-level artisan cheesemaking certification.

“During classes, people feel really empowered,” Johnson said. “That’s what feeds me. My students are my drug. It’s so rewarding getting people excited about something that they didn’t think they could do.”

Johnson also has prepped the outline for a second book that will include profiles of the “dairy divas” who provide the milk for the buttery, tangy and sometimes tart delicacies.

Her latest book is available for purchase online at and, on the shelves of the Boulder Book Store and eventually on

“It was important for my daughters to see me as more than just a stay-at-home mom,” Johnson said. “I really want to inspire young women that they too can do it. It’s all about sticking to something and being confident. You can’t shrink away from your strengths”

At Wednesday’s free party — a celebration for the release of Johnson’s book that is part memoir, part recipe book — Johnson will be serving up homemade cheese she crafted as well as some from local retailers. Yolk’n Around food truck will also be onsite.

Seger, the “guard llama” at The Art of Cheese farm, herds the goats and watches for possible predators. (Kalene McCort / For the Camera)

“I’m looking forward to celebrating another set of accomplishments that I couldn’t do alone,” Johnson said. “It’s always been about community. We’ve made it five years and from a small business perspective, that’s a big milestone.”

If you go

What: The Art of Cheese 5 year Anniversary and Book Release PartyWhen: 5:30-7:30 p.m. WednesdayWhere: St. Vrain Cidery, 350 Terry St. #130, LongmontCost: freeMore info: