Agela Abdullah on Cheese, Community, and the Next 10 Years in Dairy 

In 2008, after working as a cook with James Beard nominated chefs and in Michelin-starred restaurants, Agela Abdullah took a part-time job as a cheesemonger. She’s been working in, and connected to, the cheese world ever since.  

Now, along with her work as a marketing specialist, Agela serves as the President of the Cheese Culture Coalition – a nonprofit dedicated to making the cheese industry more inclusive and equitable through education and grant programs. She writes a column for Culture magazine, does freelance work for Good Food Jobs, and is a member of the Guilde Internationale des Fromagers. 

With roots in the Northeast, she currently lives in Chicago and is the caretaker of two cats and a sourdough starter.  

In April, Agela will be at the Northeast Dairy Innovation Summit, where she’ll lead our opening panel on expanding the dairy sector workforce. 

As we get ready for the summit, we asked Agela a few questions: 

NE-DBIC: What are you most looking forward to at the summit? 

AA: I’m looking forward to learning more about the agricultural work and animal husbandry that goes on in the dairy industry and am excited to meet folks who are ready to create a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment for everyone who has a passion for the work. 

What makes you optimistic about the next 10 years in dairy? 

I think people are realizing how much talent, skill, passion, and business sense can be found if they expand their community to include differing backgrounds and perspectives. I’m looking forward to watching the industry grow and prosper with the inclusion of people who have been overlooked in the past. 

What’s your favorite Northeast cheese, and why? 

I lived in Vermont for years before and after going to culinary school at NECI so I am a bit Vermont biased. Whenever I get back to Vermont I make sure to grab anything from Lazy Lady Farm. Laini is so creative and her cheese always excites my palate. Blue Ledge Farm has a maple chevre and a honey orange chevre that I adore and can and will eat in one sitting.  

 Hear more from Agela in April at the Northeast Dairy Innovation Summit.  

Check out the opening session description below, and register for the summit by March 1 to get special early bird rates. 

The Dairy Talent Pool is Endless – How Do We Expand It?    

Everyone loves cheese.  But not everyone has a clear pathway to working in the dairy sector.  In this opening panel, we’ll dive into the vital topic of dairy workforce development, with a focus on reaching beyond the traditional entryways into dairy. Through conversation with a panel of dairy professionals, we’ll explore key questions, including: who is currently left out of the dairy workforce, what barriers are keeping people out, and what can we learn from those who have successfully navigated these obstacles to create more accessible pathways?    

Join us as we engage in constructive dialogue and strategize ways to cultivate a more inclusive and dynamic dairy workforce, ensuring a vibrant and sustainable future for the industry.  

Facilitated by Agela Abdullah: Marketing Specialist, President of the Cheese Culture Coalition, contributing writer for Culture Magazine, and a former cheese buyer.  

With panelists:   

  • Kyra James, a food industry professional, cheese educator, creator of Own Your Funk, and board member of the Cheese Culture Coalition  
  • Greselda Powell, a cheesemonger at Murray’s Cheese  
  • Lisa Lopez, a cheesemaker and board member of the Cheese Culture Coalition  
  • Leslie McCrorey Wells, a restaurant owner, sheep farmer, and member of the Governor’s Commission on the Future of Vermont Agriculture 
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