Crave Brothers named 2022 Grand Master Cheesemaker at WI State Fair

Gloria Hafemeister
Correspondent
Several members of the Crave Brothers farm and cheese plant were on hand at the Wisconsin State Fair to accept their award as Grand Master Cheesemaker during the annual award-winning dairy products auction at the Wisconsin State Fair.

WEST ALLIS – Team Crave Brothers won the coveted title of Grand Master Cheesemaker at the Wisconsin State Fair.  The announcement was made at the start of the Blue-Ribbon Dairy Products Auction on Thurs., Aug. 11 in the Saz’s Hospitality Pavilion just prior to the auction featuring all the blue-ribbon dairy products at the fair.

The Craves of Waterloo, Wis., have won numerous awards for their cheese over the years but it was the first time they won the coveted Wisconsin State Fair award and they did it with their winning entry of Chocolate Mascarpone. The entry scored 99.700 in the flavored soft cheese class. 

The Crave Brothers were raised on a 40-cow dairy farm near Beloit and in 1978 Charles and George began farming together in Mount Horeb, milking 57 cows on a rented farm. They purchased their Waterloo dairy farm in 1980 with the goal of building a successful agribusiness. Brothers Tom and Mark later joined the partnership. 

In 2015, the next generation became owners including Andy, Jordan and Patrick Crave.  With the help of the brothers’ father Bob Crave, there are now three generations of Craves on the farm and cheese factory every day. They currently have 13 family members active in the business.

Secretary of Agriculture Randy Romanski, right, presents the Grand master Cheesemaker trophy to Beth Crave, one of the team members of Crave Brothers Cheese at Waterloo during the annual cheese and butter auction for the benefit of dairy promotion efforts at Wisconsin State Fair.

Beth Crave says the family has always been innovative and searching for ways to build the business. In 1999, they discussed how to grow our business and offer opportunities for future generations. They wanted to use the farm's high-quality milk to produce specialty cheeses for the consumer. Their cheese factory was constructed in 2001. The milk is piped directly from the dairy farm to the cheese factory within hours of milking for the farmstead cheese.

She says it is the freshness of the milk that contributes to their success. The winning Chocolate Mascarpone in the flavored soft cheese category is the result of extensive research, experimenting and taste testing.

In addition to announcing the Grand Master Cheesemaker, the grand champion dairy products were also announced at the event.

  • Grand Champion Butter: Organic Salted butter, exhibited by CROPP Cooperative/Organic Valley of LaFargo
  • Grand Champion Yogurt: Yodelay Rhubarb Swiss Yogurt, exhibited by Yodelay Yogurt of Madison
  • Grand Champion Sour Cream: Sour Cream-based French Onion Dip, exhibited by Westby Co-op Creamery of Westby
  • Grand Champion Milk: Reduced Fat Milk, exhibited by Weber’s Farm Store of Marshfield

Each blue ribbon entry from the dairy products contest was sold during the auction, raising $45,565 for student scholarships and dairy promotion at the state fair. 

Leading off the auction was two pounds of Crave Brothers Chocolate Mascarpone, which sold for $1,700 to Nelson Jameson. String Cheese made by Keving Entringer of Baker Cheese of St. Cloud, garnered $600 per pound, the second highest price per pound for any cheese sold behind Crave's mascarpone.

A complete list of sales prices and buyers can be found at https://bit.ly/3QttR1P

Funds raised at Wisconsin State Fairs cheese and butter auction are used to provide opportunities for fairgoers to learn about Wisconsin agriculture. Dairy Lane is where attendees can learn about everything from cheesemaking to how farmers care for their cattle, and more.  

Nicole Barlass, President of the Wisconsin State Fair Dairy Promotion Board says “Dairy Lane is aimed for people of all ages. Attendees can play the touch-screen games where they can “milk” a cow or dairy goat and learn about the process of how it gets to the store. There is a Wisconsin cheesemaker trivia challenge as well as live animals on display to interact with and ask questions about.” 

Milking demonstrations are held each day of the fair. The dairy cows and goats are milked three times during the fair providing fairgoers the opportunity to watch and learn about the practices being done and enjoy delicious dairy products. 

“It is so rewarding to have people truly excited to learn about dairy products and how we care for our animals,” says Barlass.

Formerly known as House of Moo, Dairy Lane is the dairy hub of the Wisconsin State Fair for attendees to learn about where their food comes from and the importance of farmers.

The State Fair Dairy Promotion also provides $1000 scholarships to students pursuing careers in the dairy industry. They were presented just prior to the auction.  Recipients include Grace Haase, Jackie Rosenbush and Olivia Spaight.

Haase of Somerset is a student at UW-River Falls with a double major in Dairy Science and Ag Business. Rosenbush, of Sarona, also attends UW-River Falls and is the current Wisconsin Fairest of the Fair. She plans to become a high school agriculture teacher.  Spaight of Waterford is pursuing a double major in Dairy Science and live Sciences Communications at UW-Madison.