A good percentage of our milk goes to our cheese factory, and we sell some off to a local cheese factory as well. They call it the 90/90 rule in Wisconsin. Ninety percent of the milk in Wisconsin is made into cheese, and 90% is sent out of state. When you think of those numbers, that’s how important the industry is to Wisconsin.
Debbie: George is a licensed cheesemaker. You have to have at least one licensed cheesemaker in your plant to operate in Wisconsin. We have three others, and our son is one of them. We wanted to showcase our farm fresh milk. It is literally hours old when it is pumped from the farm to the cheese factory.
George: The cheeses we make are classified as fresh cheeses. We make mascarpone, mozzarella, a farmers rope string cheese, and a private label Oaxaca. We also do a little bit of cheddar cheese curds, because we had time one winter and it has a following. The fresh mozzarella is our main business, all sizes and shapes.
Q: What do you want people to know about the current state of dairy in Wisconsin?
Debbie: Everyone is so proud to be the Dairy State and we know we make cheese and we’re proud of that, but there is a lot of hard work behind that. This is a family business, started with four brothers. Now we have three of the next generation that are owners. Our niece is the quality director at the cheese factory. We’re proud to be a family business. We have 90 people employed here.
Q: Do you have a favorite cheese that you make?
Debbie: I go with the seasons. There’s nothing like having fresh mozzarella with tomatoes, basil and fresh herbs, and we really love our fresh marinated mozzarella. We also make a famous mascarpone pie. Chocolate mascarpone is a newer item. It is at Woodman’s in your area, and we have it on our website where you can order. www.cravecheese.com
Q: Can you explain your approach to renewable energy and how you generate power for your cheese factory?
George: We have a biodigester. We take all the waste from the farm and cheese factory. It is pumped into two tanks. The decomposition produces methane gas. … We capture that gas and power a huge 800-horse engine that powers an electromagnetic generator and enough electricity to power the farm, the cheese factory and 300 area homes …
We read in the paper that the new administration has great hopes of creating renewable energy. The governor says his goal is to have complete renewable energy by 2050, and there is no mention of biodigesters in these articles. It is all solar and wind, but we have this in the state now and they’re working.
It is marginally cost-effective. It is really that we are competing with fossil fuels that are still really inexpensive. I’m not criticizing fossil fuels and our current system, I’m saying if we are going to transition to renewable energy we have to look at being willing to pay for it and accept biodigester generation as one source, particularly where there’s a lot of livestock.
Debbie: We were in Switzerland last year touring farms. One factory had an entire biodigester the government paid for because they thought it was important. …It is not always sunny or windy here, but there is always cow manure.
Q: What has travel taught you about the dairy industry in Wisconsin?
Debbie: We’ve always enjoyed learning from others. The sharing starts on our farm during World Dairy Expo. Then we go visit them. They come back and visit us. We believe in that mutual learning. We miss seeing them. November 2019 was our last overseas trip to visit cheesemaker friends in Switzerland. (World Dairy Expo 2021 will return Sept. 28 through Oct. 2 in Madison.)”
Table Chat features interviews with Wisconsinites, or Wisconsin natives, who work in restaurants or support the restaurant industry; or visiting chefs. To suggest individuals to profile, email firstname.lastname@example.org.