The Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker program, the nation’s only advanced training program of its kind for veteran cheesemakers, has graduated seven new and three returning Master Cheesemakers. The 2016 class is among the largest in the 22-year history of the program, which was established through a joint partnership of the Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research, UW-Extension and the dairy farm families of Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board (WMMB).
With 59 active Wisconsin Master Cheesemakers working in 32 companies across the state, the Masters hold certifications in 35 cheese varieties, from familiar classics to artisan originals. Cheesemakers entering the rigorous three-year course of study can seek certification as Masters in up to two cheese varieties each time they go through the program.
The newest Master Cheesemakers, who were formally certified at an April ceremony during the International Cheese Technology Expo in Milwaukee, are:
- Jeff Allen, of BelGioioso Cheese, Green Bay, certified in Blue Cheese and Gorgonzola.
- Bill Hanson, of Arena Cheese, Arena, certified in Colby and Gouda.
- Bob Koenig, of Carr Valley Cheese, Mauston, certified in Fontina and Gouda.
- Darrell Manning, of BelGioioso Cheese, Green Bay, certified in Provolone.
- Jon Metzig, of Union Star/Willow Creek, Berlin, certified in Cheddar and Colby.
- Scott Navarre, of Foremost Farms USA, Marshfield, certified in Cheddar and Monterey Jack.
- Dale Schmidt, of Land O’ Lakes, Kiel, certified in Cheddar and Monterey Jack.
Joining them in the 2016 graduating class are three Masters who returned to the program to gain certification in additional varieties. They are Brian Jackson of Nasonville Dairy in Marshfield, Tom Jenny, of Carr Valley Cheese in Mauston, and Gerard Knaus, of Weyauwega Star Dairy in Weyauwega.
Jackson, previously certified for Monterey Jack, Cheddar, Brick and Colby, graduates with additional certifications in Muenster and Gouda. Jenny has been part of the program since its inception and has been previously certified as a Master in Swiss, Fontina, and Gouda. He now graduates with additional certifications in Shepherd’s Blend and Bessie’s Blend, two Carr Valley originals. Knaus, a third-generation cheesemaker who was certified in 2012 for Feta and Parmesan, this year earns additional certifications in brick and Colby.
“The Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker program continues to elevate our state’s leadership position in the industry,” says James Robson, CEO of the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board. “The fact that there are so many first-time Masters in the 2016 class is particularly exciting. It’s a major professional accomplishment for them personally, but their commitment to education, innovation and excellence is something that all of the Masters take into the plant with them every day. Their expertise has an impact on product quality and, by becoming Masters, they inspire others within their companies to follow in their footsteps and do the hard work to become certified, as well.”
The Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker program is the most formalized, advanced training program in the nation. Patterned after European programs, it is administered by the Center for Dairy Research and funded by Wisconsin dairy producers, through WMMB. Applicants must be active, licensed Wisconsin cheesemakers with at least 10 years of experience in a Quality Assured Plant. Cheesemakers can earn certification in up to two cheese varieties each time they enroll in the three-year program and must have been making those varieties as a licensed cheesemaker for a minimum of five years prior to entering the program. Once certified, they’re entitled to use the distinctive Master’s Mark on their product labels and in other marketing materials.
The Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board is a nonprofit organization of dairy farmers that promotes the consumption of milk, cheese, and other dairy products made in America’s Dairyland.