In an ideal world in every city around the world, within an hour, about a 20 mile (32 km) radius, there would be a green belt. In this greenbelt, there would be a bunch of small family farmers growing food and making cheese using the most sustainable techniques, and with cows and goats and sheep, and making milk right there –fresh. So you could go to the farm, buy the milk directly; but that not is not our modern reality. And, understanding the reality of how markets have to deal with cheese can help you a great deal in becoming a better buyer in finding those little special cheeses or buying cheeses in better condition.
Depending on where you live, the different kinds of outlets that are available for buying cheese are:
And, every one of those has their challenges. Of course, the ideal place to get a great piece cheese is if you have a great cheese maker near you and can go direct. But, everyone is not lucky enough to have a great cheese maker, but you may have a good cheese maker. Or, you may have somebody who doesn't make cheese that well at all in your particular area, so direct is not always an option.
If you do have someone nearby you can buy cheese from I highly recommend that you take a tour. If you can't take a tour directly with the cheese maker call him/her up on the phone and get to know them. Visit, and keep your eyes open. Ask questions. Don't get taken in by the romance of being on the farm, look objectively. See whether or not this is someone who has mastery and who has a clean cheesemaking environment, and that will help you long ways towards understanding if is this the best option for you. Ask if they have a HaCCP plan, they are very important in terms of food safety. Build a relationship with them so that they start to get an idea of what you like. A good cheese maker will know which batches are aging in what way. If he/she know you like some like some mild cheese, or are someone who likes a more fully developed flavor, she/he can put it aside for you and have it ready when you visit.