The Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board (WMMB) has released The WMMB Link for April. The column is written by Ken Heiman from District 12 and highlights the art of making cheese and WMMB’s promotions.
Cheese—this perfect blend of fresh milk, science, expertise and artistry is as varied as it is delicious. And nobody crafts it better than Wisconsin. We produce 2.8 billion pounds of cheese per year, ranking #1 in production, and win more awards for our cheese than any other U.S. state or nation in the world.
I grew up in a cheesemaking family and became a licensed Wisconsin cheesemaker by the tender age of 16. It’s been my lifelong craft, passion and livelihood. That’s why furthering my formal training to become a Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker® was a natural next step. I had already met the 10-year minimum prerequisite of cheesemaking experience, and was eager to learn more about the process and how to successfully implement new ideas like the Omega-3 cheeses Weber’s Farm Store now produces and sells.
Founded 20 years ago, the Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker program is a rigorous three-year training, apprenticeship and testing curriculum that remains the only one of its kind in the United States. Out of roughly 1,200 licensed cheesemakers in our state, only 55 are active, certified Wisconsin Master Cheesemakers. The products of their work within 31 cheese varieties bear the Masters Mark®, a powerful branding and marketing tool that increases consumer confidence with its “hallmark of excellence” logo.
In addition to attaining my Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker certification in 2011, serving as a Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board (WMMB) director has also been important and gratifying for me. Through my businesses, professional affiliations, and the 210 or so other local family farms that supply milk for our cheeses, I see the hard work and dedication that dairy producers put into their product every day. That deserves to be understood, respected and supported. And that’s what WMMB helps with.
Through research, innovation, education and promotion, WMMB helps our dairy industry constantly improve its products, as well as expands and creates new markets for them. At the national level, WMMB:
• Works with grocery and food service channels to ensure Wisconsin cheese is available and promoted across the country. This includes in-store demonstrations/sampling and providing recipes for our products.
• Develops communications, advertising and PR activities that showcase our products, people and expertise that set us apart.
• Develops educational materials, seminars and tours that encourage food industry professionals to taste and use Wisconsin cheese.
And at the state and local levels, WMMB:
• Supports the Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research at UW-Madison. This world-renowned dairy research facility works closely with manufacturers to ensure high quality and safety in our products, plus helps develop new applications for dairy ingredients.
• Works with 63 volunteer County Dairy Leader Groups to help them locally promote our industry through product promotions, farm tours and education programs in schools.
• Runs the Wisconsin Dairy Council, to work with school foodservice staff and teachers to promote the benefits of dairy products in a healthy diet. The newer and increasingly popular “Fuel Up to Play 60” program partners with the NFL to incorporate nutrition and physical fitness into kids’ every day lives.
Growing along with the increasing customer demand for high quality, more variety and artisanal products, Wisconsin continues to master the art of cheese. And WMMB continues to develop new and engaging ways to tell the world about it.