SKOWHEGAN — Growing up on her parents’ farm, Amy Rowbottom learned at a young age the importance of having a strong work ethic and independence.

Now 36 and a decade into making her own way of living, she credits her parents — Karen and Robert Rowbottom — for teaching her how to be values-driven and to work hard to make a living, a lesson that she is passing down to her daughter, Muriel.

“I saw my parents work hard for everything they had,” Amy Rowbottom said. “Seeing them go through the ups and downs of farming prepared me for the ups and downs in life,”

In September, Amy Rowbottom moved Crooked Face Creamery from her parents’ farm to Court Street, located inside of the Maine Grains building.

“My parents milked about 70 Holsteins for about 30 years, so I grew up in that lifestyle,” Amy Rowbottom said.

Rowbottom received her English degree from Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts, and worked in marketing, sales and publishing before deciding to return to the dairy industry.

“I went off into the working world and realized how special growing up on a farm was,” she said. “I started to think about what I would want when I raise a family and I was really drawn toward the lifestyle that I had when I grew up.”

From there, she and her partner began dairy farming. Because of the fluctuating market prices, the couple knew they needed to diversify their products to bring in more income, so they began making cheese.

“I wanted to be more involved on the farm and I thought, ‘Maybe cheese is my place,'” Rowbottom said. “I started making cheese at night and on the weekends, and just fell in love with all of it.”

Though this was a passion of Amy Rowbottom’s, her priority was on the cows at the farm and her job in marketing and sales.

“My partner and I ended up splitting up about five years ago and I knew I wasn’t going to be able to milk the cows and make cheese, so I took a year off to regroup,” Rowbottom said. “I just knew that I wanted to refocus and put all of my heart and soul into cheesemaking. A year later, I got set back up again at my parent’s place, and it’s been full time for me ever since.”

Sampling the cheeses at Crooked Face Creamery in Skowhegan on Saturday are, from left, Stephan Glessner of Berlin, Germany, Grace Benoit of Milford, New Hampshire, and her sister, Genevieve Benoit of Skowhegan. Morning Sentinel photo by Rich Abrahamson Buy this Photo

Rowbottom said she considered moving her business for years as she struggled to meet the demands of her customers. Her equipment also needed upgrading.

With the assistance of a downtown tax increment financing, or TIF, for the production space and a loan from the Dairy Improvement Fund for production equipment, Rowbottom was able to secure her space and open her shop in September.

In February, town selectmen agreed to $47,000 from the downtown TIF district for Rowbottom’s business.

Her new storefront includes a milk room, production space, aging room, a smoking area and a packaging area. The milk used to make her cheese comes from Springdale Farm in Waldo, near Belfast.

“They have beautiful milk and have been friends of mine since the beginning,” Rowbottom said. “I’ve known them for a long time. That relationship is fundamental to my success because you can’t make good cheese without great milk.”

Rowbottom works out of the Court Street shop with her partner, Mike Spurrier. Her daughter, 6, usually hangs out at the shop on market days.

“I want to show her the importance of working hard for something that you love,” Rowbottom said.

The shop is open for customers from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Guests can call ahead Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays because the shop is usually open for production and shipping.

“What really drew me to making cheese was that it’s given me a place,” Amy Rowbottom said. “I was the youngest kid growing up on the farm and felt like I had never really found my place. Everything about this draws me in: The chemistry, taking this raw, beautiful product and turning it into something else, something that gets better with age, is just fascinating.”

Opening the shop has also increased Rowbottom’s sales by 44% from the previous fall, mainly because this is the first time she has had a storefront.

“I built the retain space just because we have the farmers market here. I hadn’t really put together any projections on what I thought opening up the storefront would be,” Rowbottom said. “This space was basically designed so that I could produce more for my wholesale accounts, but the walk-through traffic has been remarkable and really fun.”

Rowbottom also credits Main Street Skowhegan for the success that her business, along with many others in town, are seeing from the organization’s revitalization efforts.

A sample of Amy Rowbottom’s wares at the Crooked Face Creamery now sited at the Maine Grains building in Skowhegan. Morning Sentinel file photo

“It’s a ripple effect,” Rowbottom said. “You start to see other businesses putting a lot of energy into what Main Street Skowhegan is doing to highlight the region and all of the incredible resources and businesses that we have here that would otherwise go unnoticed. The events that they’re planning and everything that they’re doing is also inspiring businesses to want to be a part of. Skowhegan is a great place to be.”

Kristina Cannon, director of Main Street Skowhegan, said her organization was excited to welcome Crooked Face Creamery to town. The strategic planning efforts done by Main Street Skowhegan kicked off in 2016, Cannon said, after the group “heard loud and clear from our citizens that they were extremely proud of our burgeoning agricultural food hub.”

“When we heard about (Rowbottom’s) plan to relocate downtown, we were huge advocates,” Cannon said. “Amy is a great advocate for herself, her story is amazing and the committee was very supportive of her plans.”

“(Rowbottom’s) artisan cheese business is the perfect addition to the agricultural food hub that has taken root in downtown Skowhegan,” Cannon said. “Crooked Face Creamery is already contributing to the local food hub, as people travel to Skowhegan to visit her shop.”

Crooked Face Creamery products can be found at The Bankery in downtown Skowhegan and shops in or near Portland, including Portland Food Co-Op, the Cheese Shop of Portland and Browne Trading Co. Her biggest distributor is Native Maine.

As she continues to settle into her new shop, Rowbottom is still looking at ways to continue getting her business out to the community, which she also does through collaborations with breweries. She is working with Norway Brewing on a collaboration that will debut in February.

“It’s been amazing,” Rowbottom said. “It took a little bit of time for this to all come together, but it finally did. I’m so glad it came together the way that it did.

“And seeing someone enjoy my products is extremely satisfying. There would be days that I’d come to the farmers market feeling drained, but after putting my cheeses out and having locals come by and eat it and buy it helps. Over the course of the day, I feel myself fill back up again with love and appreciation.”


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