ONLY THE BEST.
Nicole E. Day Gray & Jessica Halbrecht
Jessica is originally from New Jersey and graduated from Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism but a keen interest in cheese. Once she moved to the Big Apple, she pursued her passionate love affair with curd at NYC’s greatest cheese shop, Murray’s, on famous Bleecker street in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village. She began as Affinage Assistant in the famous Murray’s underground caves, as an intern to the Cave Manager, where she learned all about aging cheese, and spent hours at a time in a white lab coat, booties and a hat, flipping cheese, tasting, plucking mold, and unpacking cheese from all over the world. It was every cheese lovers dream.
She then assisted with the transition to the new Murray’s Distribution Center in Queens where she did cutting & packing for e-commerce orders, still rocking the sexy lab coat and booties. From distribution, she was sent to sling cheese as a Cheesemonger behind the counters at Bleecker Street, and then at the Murray’s counter in Grand Central Station.
While she opted to eventually use her skills and fabulous new French accent in a different industry, a wedge of her heart still lies in cheese, making the CDSfNYS the perfect opportunity for her to co-found with Nicole.
Originally from New Hampshire, Nicole enjoyed her childhood on a small farm in Hopkinton where her passion for farming, foraging & entrepreneurship was born. After graduating from UNH and working as a Labor Economist for ten years, Nicole co-founded the certified organic & natural foods perishable manufacturing company, Mediterranean Delights. Mediterranean Delights, based in Southern Vermont, nationally distributed in the retail and foodservice markets for over 13 years. Nicole then moved to the Catskill Mountains and began offering technical assistance to agricultural enterprises.
Today, Nicole serves as CEO of AgriForaging Food Safety, which she founded in 2011; specializing in Federal & State Food Safety & Organic Compliance, Agricultural Infrastructure and Value-added Food Procurement while focusing on bridging gaps between rural and urban diversified food systems. Nicole is the proprietor of Catskills Regional Harvest & Butcher Shop and serves as the Executive Director of Delaware County FoodWorks+ located in Andes, NY. Nicole resides in the midst of the gorgeous Catskill Mountains in Delaware County (NY) with her husband enjoying delicious cheese and is obsessed with our local agricultural food system, foraging, cooking, gardening, playing and traveling.
Shannon Mason, (left), is the owner of Cowbella Creamery at Danforth Jersey Farm in Jefferson, NY. The farm was founded by the Danforth family in 1817 and is now 7 generations strong. Shannon is part of a large family team that all lives and works together on the farm that is also home to one of the longest running Jersey herds in the country. Shannon’s 40 cow herd is pasture grazed and provides all of the milk to make Cowbella butter, yogurt, kefir, and bottled whole and skim milk at the farmstead creamery. The inspiration to start Cowbella in 2010 came from Shannon’s great-great-grandmother Martha who won an award of excellence for her butter at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. Shannon won the national Young Jersey Breeder Award from the American Jersey Cattle Association in 2014. She dreams of passing her family’s farming legacy down to many generations to come by building sustainability into her own small farm, and by supporting other local producers involved with the growth of her area’s agricultural bounty.
Yoav Perry (top right), is a cheesemaker, cheesemaking consultant, and founder of Artisan Geek, whose goal is to enable cheesemakers to push the envelope of their craft with an array of exciting specialties alongside familiar cheesemaking staples. Artisan Geek is a New York City based importer and supplier of specialty cheesemaking supplies and ingredients. They supply over 600 producers in more than 35 countries as well as cheese shops, aging facilities, restaurants, specialty cookware and brewing supply merchants, culinary institutes, educators, and home cheese makers.