Next Generation Wisconsin Cheesemakers
By Jeanne Carpenter | Photo By Jim Klousia 0
For more than 100 years, the words “America’s Dairyland” have been Wisconsin’s claim to fame. It’s a title we Wisconsinites take seriously: We wear it on our license plates, t-shirts and even the official state quarter. And we do it by being home to more dairy farms, cheesemakers and gold medal cheeses than any other state in the nation.
But “America’s Dairyland” is no longer a title Wisconsin takes for granted. After 20 years of stagnation in the 80s and 90s, state and federal partners began creating new organizations to help reinvigorate Wisconsin dairy. The results are stunning. Since 2003, 43 new dairy plants have gone up and another 70 expanded. Dairy farmers and processors have re-invested $1.2 billion in their dairy farms and processing plants, and nearly 60 new varieties of cheeses are now on the market. Wisconsin now produces almost half of all specialty cheese in the United States.
Whew. If those numbers aren’t enough to make you shout “Whoohoo!” about living inWisconsin and eating award-winning cheese every day, then here’s one more gem: the number of young cheesemakers flocking to Wisconsin is on the rise.
Wisconsin is the only state in the nation to require cheesemakers to be licensed. The process is a time-intensive journey requiring hundreds of apprenticeship hours and five university courses. The state boasts 1,200 active cheesemakers, who craft more than 600 types, styles and varieties of cheese. But the faces of these cheesemakers are beginning to change. More young men and women are entering an industry formerly reserved for only the third and fourth generation sons of cheesemakers.
Here’s a look at three up-and-coming potential rock stars, each of whom has taken a different path to establishing their cheesemaking career in Wisconsin.