Who We Are
We are passionate about the the value that our friendships, families, shared experiences, and enjoyment of tradition and place have brought to our lives.
The Tumino Cheese Company was founded as a business in 2016 but the roots of the company go back much further. The three families involved in the company have strong ties to farming and an abiding love of dairy cows and tasty cheese. As a group, we have long had the dream to make the cheeses like those we tasted and loved in trips to the Parma area of Italy. Conversations with friends and many late nights scheming and dreaming resulted in the opportunity to mentor with an Italian friend who was a master cheese-maker. Under his rigorous tutelage, we joined in late 2015 with the intent of making cows’ milk based true Italian-style cheeses. In December, we, Elisa Tumino-VanAmburgh, Sue Prokop, and Mariann Fessenden, formed Tumino Cheese Company (using Elisa’s family name—very Italian) and, with the help of our husbands and families, made our first cheeses using the Cornell University Pilot program. Just as our efforts are a joining of families our cheeses are a blending of place. We pay homage to the Lakes, people, and history of our area with our cheese names; we base our recipes in the traditions of farmers and cheese makers maintaining a craft developed over time in agrarian communities.
Elisa Tumino-VanAmburgh is our production manager and head cheese-maker. Elisa grew up in Ragusa, a small city in Sicily. After having worked in an agricultural research facility she came to the United States to further her education in while working in the dairy nutrition lab at Cornell. There she met her future husband, Mike who shared her passion for Italian food and traditional cheeses. Elisa completed her bachelors in Food Science at Cornell and began formulating plans to make cheeses of her home country. Mike and Elisa are responsible for cultivating a love of Italy and Italian cheeses with their friends and with the many students whose lives they affect through Mike’s position as Professor in ruminant nutrition at Cornell University. Mike and Elisa have two daughters, Emma and Anna, and live in King Ferry.
In addition to helping with all aspects of cheese production, Sue Prokop is the master of inventory records, ordering supplies, and keeping us straight. Originally from a small farm in Delaware Co., New York—where the cows outnumber people, Sue has lived in various places with her husband, Bill, as he managed dairies in Indiana and Idaho. Sue is a vet tech working at Cayuga Pet Hospital. She and Bill have a fondness (some might call it obsession) for cats. They have four at home and many more at the Cornell University Ruminant center, where Bill is the manager. They live in Tully with a beautiful view of Song Mountain.
As the general manager of Tumino Cheese Company, Mariann Fessenden is responsible for marketing, web presence, and systems set up of the company. Raised on a small Jersey farm in eastern New York, Mariann met her husband, John, at Cornell University. After years working in landscape design, she returned to her roots working in cattle nutrition as educational liaison at Agricultural Modeling and Training Systems. John and Mariann further complicated their lives through the ownership of a small but wonderful herd of Jersey cattle housed in Attica, NY. John, through all his experience gained at Farm Credit, helps keep the financial records of the business. John and Mariann live in King Ferry and have four grown children: Marissa, Samuel, Thomas, and Sarah.
These three families work together to support the efforts of the principals, Elisa, Sue, and Mariann. We are excited to join our skills and expertise to form a company devoted to making high quality, unique, very tasty cheese. As we develop our company we will move from the Cornell Pilot program to our own plant where we hope to be able to use milk from Keswick Dairy, John and Mariann’s cows.