If you appreciate a fine Wisconsin dairy product, then it’s very likely that you have enjoyed the delicious work of a University of Wisconsin-Madison dairy short course student. In fact, at the 2011 U.S. Championship Cheese contest more than 73 percent of the individual winners had taken a UW-Madison dairy short course. A statistic which is not so surprising when one considers the fact that this spring the program will welcome its 10,000th student to campus.
In 1890 the University of Wisconsin- Madison established the first Dairy Short Course in the United States. That tradition was then built upon in 1989 when the modern dairy short course was developed thanks to the work of the Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research (CDR), the UW-Madison Food Science department, the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board (WMMB) and Bill Wendorff, Ph.D.
“When I joined the staff in 1989, I toured the state and spoke with more than 70 dairy manufacturers. We discussed what areas of production and manufacture they would like us to focus on for further training and education,” said Emeritus Professor Bill Wendorff, who was instrumental in the revival of the dairy short course. “I found that many dairy industry members were looking for educational opportunities that would assist them in dealing with the ever changing technology. I also found they were looking for training that would give them a competitive edge and lead to high-quality and unique products.”
Today, CDR and the Food Science department offer more than 22 short courses a year on the UW-Madison campus, which focus on topics from cheese technology and buttermaking to sanitation practices and dairy chemistry. The modern short courses work to meet the needs of the current industry while also preserving the mission of the original dairy short course; to maintain the knowledge and tradition of crafts such as cheesemaking and buttermaking, while providing cutting-edge research-based education to industry.
“Without CDR and their dairy short courses, I’m not so sure that our cheese industry would be what it is today,” said Bruce Workman, owner of Edelweiss Creamery in Monroe, Wisconsin. “I’ve taken just about every course CDR offers; at least in regards to cheesemaking. They have been key in helping me to gain knowledge while also encouraging me to be creative.”
Workman, a Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker® since 1999, has his Master certification in nine different cheeses and has since won several awards in Gruyere, Swiss, Butterkase, Raclette and Havarti cheese.
CDR and WMMB developed the Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker® Program in 1994 with the goal of providing advanced education to experienced cheesemakers through artisan dairy short courses. Jim Path, a retired CDR Specialty Cheese Outreach Coordinator originally suggested the program after traveling to Europe and observing their cheesemaker recognition programs. Upon Jim’s return, Bill Wendorff, Cathy Hart (WMMB) and Mike Dean (UW) joined forces to establish the program in Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker® Program is the only one of its kind in the United States and offers those experienced cheesemakers who pass the extensive courses and training the opportunity to earn the Master’s designation which includes the use of the WMMB developed Master’s Mark on their products. The Master’s Mark represents Wisconsin’s “cream of the crop” dairy manufacturers and works to provide a competitive advantage to those who achieve this designation.
“Every cheesemaker should take a CDR short course,” continued Workman. “CDR has some of the best teachers in the world working to educate the next generation of dairy manufacturers. The Master Cheesemaker® Program is just one way that CDR encourages continued education and excellence in the Wisconsin dairy industry.”
The dairy industry, which contributes more than $27 billion dollars to Wisconsin’s economy and employs more than 146,000 people, is the main focus of CDR dairy short courses. CDR, WMMB and UW-Madison work together throughout the year to provide educational opportunities that will enhance the Wisconsin dairy industry and bring about Wisconsin dairy success stories. Over the past 20 years it is clear that those outreach efforts have had a tremendous impact on the economy and individuals throughout the state. As companies such as Seymour Dairy, Edelweiss Creamery, Carr Valley Cheese and others grow; these businesses bring jobs and more to the Dairy State. One example of such growth is Uplands Cheese Company.
“As a farmer, I knew very little about making cheese,” said Mike Gingrich, owner of Uplands Cheese Company in Dodgeville, Wisconsin and a proud dairy short course student. “So, a few years ago I decided to attend a dairy short course to learn a little bit more. That short course was really my introduction to cheesemaking. While I was attending the course I met several of the teachers and staff at CDR including John Jaeggi and Mark Johnson, both cheese experts who were willing to listen to my ideas and answer my questions.”
During the short course CDR staff and Gingrich discussed the possible development of a hand-crafted cheese that would be based on the French style cheese, Beaufort.
“The staff was intrigued by my idea,” said Gingrich. “So we made some test batches and they helped me to figure out the make procedure for what is now known as Pleasant Ridge Reserve.”
Today, Pleasant Ridge Reserve is the only cheese to win the American Cheese Society’s Best of Show three times. They also won Best of Show at the U.S. Cheese Championship.
Gingrich said, “It really all started that day at the Cheese Technology short course.”
It is stories such as Gingrich’s that demonstrate the true reach and importance of dairy short course outreach efforts.
“The modern dairy short courses have had many positive impacts,” said Wendorff. “But one of the greatest benefits of short courses is that they allow CDR staff to connect with the Wisconsin dairy industry. It is these interactions and connections that will continue to lead to greater outreach and greater success for Wisconsin.”
For more information on UW-Madison dairy short courses please visit www.cdr.wisc.edu or call 608-262- 5970. If you would like more information on the Master Cheesemaker® Program visit www.eatwisconsincheese.com.