Ag briefs: Wisconsin celebrates 25 years of cheesemaker program

Wisconsin State Farmer


Wisconsin Celebrates 25 Years of Masters in the Making

If you ask anyone to identify what makes Wisconsin special, they are likely to say cheese.

Wisconsin cheesemakers have the same sense of pride and passion for what they do as some of the world's best authors, athletes and architects — which inspires them to do things they'd otherwise only dream of doing — like write best-selling novels, compete in the Olympics and build the world's tallest skyscrapers. Because when you are truly passionate about something, you will dedicate your entire life to it.

So that's why in Wisconsin, the cheesemakers are determined to become masters.

This year marks an exciting milestone with the 25th anniversary of the Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker® program — the nation's most advanced education program in the art and science of cheesemaking. Its rigorous standards are a key factor driving Wisconsin's dairy innovation and leadership forward, despite an increasingly competitive national and global marketplace.

Becoming a Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker is no small feat. It requires 10 years of experience as a licensed cheesemaker, several years of coursework, a three-year apprenticeship, a written exam that can take up to 50 hours to complete and a lifetime commitment to cheese. The time it takes to complete the program is comparable to the time it takes to become a doctor.

"It's no secret that Wisconsin wins more awards for its cheese than any other state, region or nation," says Suzanne Fanning, Senior Vice President for Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin and Chief Marketing Office for Wisconsin Cheese. "What may be a secret, though, is Wisconsin's own Master Cheesemaker program. It is one of the key drivers for our state's high honors."

It's an intense commitment and impressive accomplishment to become a Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker - one that only 90 cheesemakers have achieved in the past 25 years. Wisconsin and Switzerland are the only places in the world with this level of education.

Wisconsin began making cheese before it was even a state and the first people to settle in Wisconsin were expert cheesemakers from places like Switzerland, Germany and Italy. Their cheesemaking expertise was one of the few things they brought with them. They chose Wisconsin because the soil, water and climate provided the perfect conditions for doing what they'd been doing for centuries in the Old World… making great cheese.

To celebrate this momentous milestone, Wisconsin Cheese is traveling the country to tell these stories and showcase the new personalized Master's Marks, which identify products only made by Wisconsin Master Cheesemakers. 


Milk production ending in 2 Upper Peninsula counties

The closure of two dairy farms in the Upper Peninsula will end commercial milk production in two counties.

The Johnson Dairy Farm in Baraga County stopped production last week, and the owners of Rolling Acres farm in Houghton County expect to sell all of their milking cows by the end of July, The Daily Mining Gazette of Houghton reported. According to U.S. Department of Agriculture data, 6.5% of the nation's dairy farms closed in 2018.

Gary Palosaari took over Rolling Acres in Chassell Township from his parents in 1992. He said the farm kept losing money because of years of low milk prices and high costs.

"You think you can ride it out, but then the hauling costs got so extremely high," he said. "We're paying a ridiculous amount of hauling because there's not enough milk. Then when money's tight, you can't pay labor like you should, so everything falls on each other."

His wife, Teresa Palosaari, said it was costing the farm more than $4,000 a month to ship the milk to Jilbert's Dairy in Marquette.

Of the 190 cows in the herd, 54 are being milked, generating 75 pounds of milk a day, Gary Palosaari said. The farm makes about $15 per 100 pounds of milk.

Palosaari said the farm lost money last year, and he has been subsidizing the business with money he's earned doing construction work on the side.

He said that despite all this, he hasn't given up on dairy farming altogether. Perhaps, he said, he'll revisit having milk cows in a couple of years. Meanwhile, the family is considering keeping some of the remaining herd for beef, and it could continue to grow crops — although trucking costs will continue to be a factor.

Steve Johnson, the owner of the Johnson Dairy Farm, declined to provide details about why he decided to stop producing milk after 43 years. But he said it was hard to say goodbye to his herd.

"The day they went, it was an awful sad day," Johnson said. "But that's the way it is."


Rural county in uproar over new large-scale feedlot law

Many residents of a rural southwestern Missouri county are critical of a state law that restricts how much local authorities can regulate industrial feedlots and say they feel betrayed by their local representatives who backed the legislation.

Speakers at a community meeting on  June 12 in Cedar County said they supported ordinances introduced by county commissioners designed to protect them from the massive hog farms that they say cause pollution and depreciate property values, the Springfield News-Leader reported .

Ed McEowan said a hog-raising operation opened up next to his home in the southeast of the county more than a decade ago. He spoke of how going outside or even opening windows became impossible due to the smell of ammonia and feces, and the sound of thousands of hogs squealing. The value of his property dropped.

"Then the depression comes, because you feel like everything you've ever worked for on the place and built up has all come to nothing," McEowan said.

County rules now in place prevent industrial farms from setting up too close to homes and vulnerable waterways that could become polluted by manure runoff, according to county treasurer Peggy Kenney.

"We didn't do it to keep anyone out," she said. "We didn't do it to hinder agriculture in any way."

The legislation signed into law last month prevents counties from adopting stricter rules governing concentrated animal feeding operations than those at the state level. The law takes effect Aug. 28.

Tim Gibbons, the Missouri Rural Crisis Center's communications director, called the legislation "an attack on our fundamental rights" that must be stopped.

Attendees applauded a proclamation that communities need "local control, not corporate control" and that their "future depends on it."

In a separate interview, Missouri Farm Bureau President Blake Hurst told the newspaper that his parents live about a quarter of a mile from an operation in northwest Missouri. He said the smell is only an issue a few days a year, and the well water is just fine.

"We're living the dream here, and it has not changed our quality of life," he said.

Rep. Warren Love, whose district covers northern Cedar County, said he voted for the bill, and that if residents don't like the rules, they know what to do.

"If you want to live where there's no livestock, go live somewhere in the city limits," Love said.


Disaster declaration sought for Ohio farmers hurt by rain

Ohio is seeking federal aid for farmers who haven't been able to plant crops because of rain soaked fields.

Gov. Mike DeWine's office said Friday he is seeking a disaster declaration from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to make affected farmers eligible for federal money.

DeWine noted that record rainfall through the spring planting season has been devastating to farmers with flooding and saturated fields preventing them from planting. Just 50 percent of Ohio's corn crop and 32 percent of its soybean crop had been planted as of earlier this week.

Large amounts of rain affected farmers as early as last fall. Some 2018 crops are still in the field waiting to be harvested. Farmers are contending with other issues as well, including erosion and delayed field work.