A cheese adventure in Wisconsin
Posted by by Mike Brantl, deli clerk at Lunds Central
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
I recently had the opportunity to join a busload of my Lund’s and Byerly’s co-workers on a trip through the heartland of Wisconsin visiting cheese makers large and small.
At every stop I was impressed by the cattle-grazing operations on these local pastures in terms of health, safety and a commitment to producing top-quality cheeses.
The highpoint of the three day tour for me was a visit to the Holland Family Farm, home of Marieka’s Gouda. Not as small as my Uncle Albert’s farm near Warren, Minnesota, this farm is home to 850 cows.
We’ve had Marieka’s Gouda at Lunds University & Central for about four years, and I consider it be one of the finest raw milk goudas in America. Marieka herself has sampled the cheese at my store in the past.
My understanding of cheese making has always come from researching cheeses in books or on the internet as well as tasting cheeses from around the world at food shows and importers warehouses. My understanding of cheese became more complete on this trip.
There, in the heart of Wisconsin, amidst the rolling hills I experienced the “complete deal.” I saw first-hand a family living alongside and caring for their heard of cattle. Breeding and birthing cows and making cheeses from the milk as well as aging the wheels of cheese to perfection in the farm’s “caves.”
Much of what the cows eat is grown on adjoining land. Part of the custom mix in the cattle’s diet includes sprouted cotton seed which I had never seen before. Everything is aimed at creature comfort in order to produce the highest quality milk. The cows roam freely inside very high-roofed structures with open air sides. Large ceiling fans circulate the air while automated manure removal systems keep the areas clean. Partially enclosed sand floors made for comfortable reclining. Even a motion activated back scrubber keeps the cows happy.
Nestled between these very large buildings is the milking parlor. Cows rotate through this area multiple times each day, and before each milking samples are taken for lab testing. As Marieka walked us through the farm, you could tell from the smile on her face how proud she is of the cheese that she is producing. The awards she continues to receive are well deserved for all the dedication and hard work.
This one visit brought home to me the art of cheese making. Every direction I looked a piece of the puzzle filled in until the whole picture came together. The farm, the animals, the aroma, the milk, and the labor of those who steward the process from beginning to end, all added up to a wonderfully clear revelation.
Artisan. Farmstead. Farmhouse. And one of Americas finest cheese makers.