Wisconsin is one of America's most prominent dairy states; with more cheesemakers than in any other state, it's no wonder we've chosen Wisconsin cheese as our newest feature. While Wisconsin is home to several large, industrial dairies, you'll also find quite a few small, local farmers, making cheese organically and according to time-honored traditions of the state.
While they don't farm organic milk themselves, Cedar Grove has done the next best thing and buys milk from local organic farms, to ensure top quality cheese. "All of our products are free of genetically engineered products including recombinant bovine growth hormone. Organic farming gives us that assurance, protection against residual antibiotics, and a commitment to grass-based farming and protection of the soils for the future," says Bob Wills. In fact, Cedar Grove was the first in the country to assure its customers that its products were rBGH-free, in 1993.
The moral of this story: It's important to know your strong suits. For Mr. Wills and his team, cheesemaking is their art form. "We have a 5-year-old sharp organic cheddar that is like candy for me," he says. They also make several varieties of organic cheese, such as cheddars and mozzarellas, and artisan organic cheeses like butterkase with fenugreek and Dante, a sheepsmilk cheese.
Mr. Wills and his team work to ensure that quality organic cheese can be enjoyed by all, shipping all over the country, so that those who wish to feed organic cheese to their children can do so. "By using organic milk, we support the farmers who follow the practices that many of our customers care about," says Mr. Wills. "We are the middlemen creating the link between farmers and consumers. Product flows one way, money and gratitude flow the other. It's a nice role."
Castle Rock Farms
Castle Rock Organic Farms, located in Osseo, is a family farm with a generational work ethic and love for quality. "We practice stewardship of land, body and soul. We believe in nurturing our future generations through quality and craftsmanship of every product we create."
Castle Rock offers several different varieties of cheese, including two raw-milk cheeses, a bleu and several cheddars, from simple mild, medium and sharp cheddars to cheeses flavored with spinach, leeks and garlic or lemon, ginger and thyme. The cheeses are currently available throughout several cities in the midwest, including Chicago and Eau Claire.
Otter Creek Farms
"Otter Creek's goal is to raise the bar on agricultural quality and to produce food that people will love. It's not enough to know your farmer—we want you to LOVE YOUR FOOD!" This award-winning cheesemaker has a philosophy we can get on board with! Gary Zimmer, a pioneer of mineralized balanced agriculture -- wherein farmers grow their own fertilizers -- has created a world where artisan farm products definitely inspire love.
The farm is run by three families who live and work on it, creating an atmosphere of love surrounding the product... and with incredible results. Otter Creek's Pesto Cheddar -- made with a basil-infused olive oil from Mark Olson, a local artisan producer at Renaissance Farms -- has won several awards and is definitely worth a taste, or ten!
For more local cheesemakers, check out the previous articles in this series: