It’s four in the morning. Everyone else is asleep in her small alpine town, but Taylor Pfeiffer has been up all night drinking Nespresso and waiting to flip cheeses.
This was a common occasion for Taylor the year she interned in Germany at an artisanal creamery through the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange for Young Professionals (CBYX) program. As an international agriculture major at Cornell University, she had other overseas farming experiences, but had always wanted to spend time in Germany, where her grandparents immigrated from. She was particularly interested in the dairy industry due to its cultural cache in the country.
“I just really wanted to explore the culture surrounding cheese, dairy, and traditional pastoralism,” said Taylor, who had experimented with making her own cheese in the past. “This seemed the perfect opportunity to do it.”
Taylor spent 2016 through 2017 in a small town in the Bavarian Alps, which Taylor described as “almost like Sound of Music scenery.” She arrived with an intermediate knowledge of German, but that soon changed as the Christopher Schaefer, the cheesemonger she worked for, didn’t speak much English. He taught her the technical German of cheesemaking in his creamery, Audorfer Kaeserei, and had her speak at dairy conferences about what the industry was like in the U.S.
In a creamery that was only around 500 square feet in size, Christopher showed Taylor how to make cheese his way: with lots of pH testing and extreme precision. He was actually considered a renegade in the dairy community due to his exacting technique for producing cheese.
“He was an artist and a scientist when it came to cheesemaking,” said Taylor, “He didn’t cut any corners.”
In addition to training Taylor, Christopher welcomed her into his home. Taylor lived with the Schaefers during her internship, including his four daughters, his parents, sheep, goats, and chickens. “I helped teach the little girls English. Living with them I was like part of the family,” she said.
Now back in the States, Taylor runs a farm-to-table salmon business called “Fat Fish.” She and her boyfriend spend their summers fishing in Alaska and afterward sell their cooperative’s salmon in New York City. While she’s not currently making cheese professionally, the experience of living abroad shaped her in other ways.
“It gave me a lot of confidence as a person,” said Taylor. “The big thing I learned while I was there was perseverance, dedication, and not being afraid of what’s to come.”
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