You arrive at the buzzing, fluorescent dairy section of a chain grocery store and make a decision. Whole, skim or nonfat milk? Plain or flavored yogurt? Done and done. Then you reach the cheese section of the aisle and are inundated with a display of shapes, sizes and varieties from all over the world. With so many options, how do you decide? We’ve got one simple suggestion: choose local artisan and farmstead cheeses.

Whether you’re a chèvre connoisseur or just enjoy a good cheddar, stepping outside of the grocery store and choosing local artisan and farmstead cheeses is a good thing. In fact it’s a great thing for local businesses, animals and your tastebuds. Why? Well, it all boils down to the milk. Most mass produced cheeses use milk gathered from various dairies in inhumane conditions, giving a much more mild (read: boring taste).

Artisan cheeses are handmade in small batches using non-mechanical, traditional techniques, while farmstead cheeses are only made using milk produced by the farmer's own animals. These animals are also well taken care of. These carefully hand-crafted goods are then packaged and sold nearby, which is great for local businesses. Flavors are complex and robust, not to mention impact on the environment is low. Believe us you’ll taste the difference.

Purchasing local artisan and farmstead products also gives you the opportunity to experience an intimate, personal relationship between the craftsman and their goods. You’ll have the luxury of speaking with an expert who can help you decide what you’ll love. It’s akin to having a personal shopper. In New York City, Ronnybrook Farm from Hudson Valley, Millport Dairy from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and Valley Shepherd Creamery from Hunterdon County, New Jersey, all have regular stands at weekly farmers' markets around the city.

You can find which markets they will be at and when on GrowNYC.org. You can also find a wide selection of local artisan cheeses at Lucy's Whey in Chelsea Market and at Beecher's Handmade Cheese shop in the Flatiron District. Outside of NYC, check out LocalHarvest.org to find a farmers' market near you that sells local artisan and farmstead cheeses.

--Video and Copy by Rose Gunson