The early Wisconsin pioneers of the 1830’s and 1840’s were the foundation of the Wisconsin cheese industry.  Fresh milk spoiled quickly, and making cheese was a way to preserve it.   It was mostly the role of the pioneer women to carry on the difficult process of making cheese on the farm.  Supplies for the cheese had to be purchased, and it wasn’t just a quick easy trip to town.  The cows had to be milked.  The milk had to be hauled.  The butter was churned.  And the cheese was pressed.  It was hard work!

In 1831, the first “cottage industry cheese factory” was established in Wisconsin by Mrs. Annie Pickett on her farm, by using milk from the neighbors’ cows.  But it wasn’t until 1846 when John J. Smith had the first cheese vat brought into Wisconsin, that the Swiss immigrants began the first “farmstead cheese factory.”

Over the past 180 plus years, Wisconsin continues leadership in cheesemaking, having more skilled and licensed cheesemakers than any other state, about 1200 in 2016, with 5% of those (about 60) with the status of Master Cheesemakers. Starting in 1994, and modeled after Master Certified programs in Europe, Wisconsin is the only USA state to offer a cheesemaker the opportunity to become a Master Cheesemaker. To be considered for the program, one must be a resident of one of the 72 Wisconsin counties, have had a license to produce cheese for at least 10 years, and must been making the cheese for which they are aspiring to be Master for at least 5 years. Once accepted into the approximately 3 year program, there are required classes on Cheese Technology, Cheese Artisanship, Cheese Grading, and Quality Assurance.  Other Electives are Applied Dairy Chemistry, Business & Marketing, Process Cheese, Whey & Whey Utilization, Water a& Waste Management, and Milk Pasteurization & Process Control, pass a comprehensive exam, participate in a 240 hour apprenticeship, all for a cost of about $3000.   Cheesemakers from other states may enroll in the program, but they cannot attain the Master Cheesemaker status.

It has taken many people and techniques over thousands of years to arrive at our modern day cheesemaking levels.  So, with all the history behind the cheese industry, the next time you say, “More cheese, please,”  don’t take your favorite cheese for granted!  Enjoy!

Info above from following websites.  Check these links for more details!