Cheese plants take center stage in "Our Dairy Past" series on May 19

Colleen Kottke
Wisconsin State Farmer
Lakeshire Cheese Ad- 1933.

KEWAUNEE -  In years past, little cheese plants were the cornerstones of little rural communities across Wisconsin. This weekend visitors will have the opportunity to learn about those plants large and small that helped make Wisconsin the cheese capitol of the world during “Our Dairy Past, featuring Krohn Dairy,” the second in a three part series hosted by the Agricultural Heritage and Resource Center in Kewaunee.

Last year Lake to Lake Dairy Cooperative led off the series, but this year Krohn's Dairy which has been serving northeast Wisconsin for over 125 year will take center stage from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, May 18, at the Agricultural Heritage and Resource Center, N2251 Hwy 42, five miles south of Kewaunee.

A crowd listens to the history of the Lake to Lake Dairy Cooperative during the first of a three part series "Our Dairy Past" at the Agricultural Heritage and Resource Center in Kewaunee on May 19, 2018.

While Krohn's Dairy represents just one of many cheese plants that dotted the rural Wisconsin landscape at the turn of the century.

The history of Krohn’s cheese dates back to 1892, and was known for its cheddar cheese before making a bold move into the Mozzarella cheese market. The plant operated at the original location in Kewaunee County for over 100 years.

Although the factory is still in operation, it operated under a new banner after being sold to Weyauwega in 2000, with the brand being changed to Trega in 2003. The business again changed hands in 2008 when it was purchased by Agropur.

During the cheesemaking heyday, over 64 cheese plants operated inside Kewaunee County. Today, Agropur is the lone operational cheese plant in the county. The Krohn’s cheese store still has a store front at the plant, selling a variety of award-winning cheeses.

The program will also feature some of the larger cheese plants that broke into the scene in the 1930’s, such as Sartori Cheese, Saputo Cheese, BelGioioso Cheese and others that bought out some of the smaller plants from our area. Some of the area plants include Stella Cheese, Branch, Frigo, and Potts Blue Star Cheese. 

Lakeshire or Lakeshire Marty became one of Plymouth’s largest cheese companies by the middle of the 19th Century. It produced a wide variety of cheese and cheese products in modern production facilities, shown here in 1942.

Saputo cheese started in 1954 in Canada and bought Stella Cheese in 1997. Schreiber Cheese owned Stella Cheese from 1950-1963.  When talking about the history of cheese in Wisconsin, we also need to discuss Schreiber Cheese, Green Bay. They started out in 1945 and sales of five billion pounds a year of cheese annually with over 7,000 employees.

Who needs a crystal ball when you have a humongous block of cheese on New Year's Eve?

Guests will also be treated to a history lesson as presenters explore the history of Wisconsin as the cheese capital of the world. Most folks are  unaware that Plymouth was once known as the epicenter of the cheese industry. Today the city is home to Sargento Cheese, Masters Gallery Foods, Sartori Cheese and Great Lakes Cheese. Between 15-20% of all cheese produced in the U.S. passes through the city of Plymouth.

The free event is open to the public, and guests are free to explore the grounds and observe the tractors and other historic equipment on display. Food and desserts will also be available.

The Agricultural Heritage and Resource Center is located at N2251 Hwy. 42 just south of Kewaunee.