For centuries, cheesemaking was “women’s work”. While men saw to the animals and fields, women were relegated to the indoor duties, including making cheese. But as dairy production in the US became industrial and cheeses were factory-made, the intricate art of turning milk into cheese was nearly lost. The emergence of the good food movement in the 1970’s saw women like California’s Laura Chenel, Paula Lambert of the Mozzarella Co. and Judy Schad of Capriole forge the way for our current renaissance of artisan cheeses. With virtually no resources for information, equipment or support, their commitment to provide healthy, wholesome food, their keen business acumen and sheer fortitude, paved the way and set standards for hundreds of skilled cheesemakers who have followed in their paths.
Within today’s booming artisan cheese movement, many women are back in the forefront, this time as owners, operators, and makers of some world-class cheeses. Here is a list of some Midwestern producers we proudly carry and hope you will seek out at our counter.
Prairie Fruits Farm, Champaign, IL
Leaving academia as a soil scientist, Leslie relocated to central Illinois 10 years ago to start a sustainable goat dairy and farmstead creamery. Today she produces a range of seasonal French-inspired cheeses from her herd of pastured goats while embodying core principles of environmental stewardship, economic viability and social responsibility. Together with husband, Wes Jerrel, Leslie also works to educate the community about the connections between food production and consumption and serves as a model for other small-scale diversified farming systems.
Holland Family Cheese Co., Thorp, WI
Coming from a Dutch dairy family, cheesemaking was in Marieke’s genes but acquiring land in the Netherlands was nearly impossible. Her husband’s family had prime pasturage on their Wisconsin farm and it didn’t take much for Marieke to resettle there and start making farmstead cheeses. Based on traditional Dutch Gouda recipes, her cheeses have won numerous awards with her Golden Mature Gouda being a perennial Marché favorite.
Capriole, Greenville, IN
A true pioneer in the American cheese movement, Judy has been hand-crafting her amazing cheeses since the late 1970’s. Moving her family from Louisville to a nearby Indiana farm she soon found her son’s pet goat turned into a small herd. Learning to milk them and make cheese for friends and family quickly turned into a business. As the herd grew, she honed her cheesemaking and business skills, creating markets for artisan goat cheese that hadn’t existed in the Midwest prior to her perseverance and diligent work.
Hidden Springs Creamery, Westy, WI
Brenda Jensen retired from her corporate career 15 years ago, moving to a liesure farm only to become a trailblazer in sheep cheese making in the US. Unwittingly accompanying her husband to a local sheep co-op meeting, she soon realized her ewes’ milk was something special and she ought to be making cheese with it. Her flock of 50 has grown ten-fold since the start and she continues to garner more awards and accolades for her growing line of cheeses.
Katie Hedrich Fuhrman
LaClare Farms, Malone, WI
Larry and Clara Hedrich moved to a hobby farm 40 years ago and like so many others were soon obsessed with the dairy animals – goats in this case. Family vacations revolved around visits to dairies and cheese makers here and abroad. Daughter Katie eventually found herself working for several licensed cheese makers in Wisconsin. Within a few years, Katie applied for her own license and has been developing and crafting award winning cheeses for the family business ever since, including the popular Cave Aged Chandoka.