Beginning Cheesemaker Scholarship
Between 2009-2018, Wisconsin Cheese Originals awarded $21,500 in scholarships to help several Wisconsin artisans earn Wisconsin cheesemaker licenses. Membership dues provided at least one annual $2,500 and additional $500 awards to Wisconsin residents committed to pursuing cheesemaking as a career.
Wisconsin is the only state in the nation to require cheesemakers to be licensed, a lengthy process that requires multiple cheesemaking courses, 240 hours of apprenticeship with an existing licensed Wisconsin cheesemaker, and passing a written test administered by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture.
Past Wisconsin Cheese Originals scholarship recipients include:
Katie Hedrich Fuhrmann of LaClare Farms obtained her license after receiving the very first Wisconsin Cheese Originals Scholarship. At the 2011 U.S. Champion Cheese Contest, she took Best in Show for her goat’s milk cheese, Evalon, and was named the U.S. Champion Cheesemaker, the youngest cheesemaker to ever earn the title. In 2013, she and her family built a new farmstead cheese plant on their farm near Pipe, Wis. In 2015, her Cave Aged Chandoka won Runner-Up Best in Show at the American Cheese Society Competition. She continues to create new and award-winning cheeses every year.
Anna Landmark successfully obtained her cheesemaker’s license after receiving the scholarship and today owns and operates Landmark Creamery with business partner Anna Thomas Bates. Anna crafts seasonal sheep, cow and mixed milk cheeses. At both the 2017 and 2015 U.S. Championship Cheese Contests, her fresh sheep’s milk cheese, Petit Nuage, won a Gold Medal. She continually wins awards for her cheeses each year at the American Cheese Society competition. In 2018, the Annas opened Landmark Creamery Provisions in Paoli, a retail store and future home of the Landmark Creamery aging cellars.
Natalee Ihde is the newest recipient of the Wisconsin Cheese Originals cheesemaker scholarship. She has a degree in Culinary Arts, has worked as a professional cheesemonger, and is currently taking cheesemaking short courses while working as a farm helper at Door County Creamery in Sister Bay. Natalee’s goal is to create artisan cheeses someday in her own farmstead creamery.
Heydi Luis and her husband, Cesar Luis, are both Wisconsin licensed cheesemakers and own and operate Cesar’s Cheese in Random Lake, Wisconsin. Their hand-stretched Queso Oaxaca won a gold medal at both the 2017 U.S. Championship Cheese Contest and the 2014 World Championship Cheese Contest. The couple handcrafts Queso Fresco, Mozzarella, Bandaged Cheddar, Small Batch Gouda and a variety of other styles.
Rose Boero, a dairy goat farmer in Custer, Wis, successfully obtained her cheesemaker’s license after receiving the scholarship. Today, she makes a variety of goat’s milk cheeses at Willow Creek Cheese and teaches beginning cheesemaking classes in her home for amateur cheesemakers.
Jennifer Digman successfully obtained her cheesemaker’s license after earning the Wisconsin Cheese Originals scholarship. She has worked with a number of Wisconsin cheesemakers, including Master Cheesemaker Vern Kind at Wisconsin Whey Protein in Darlington, Wis., where she oversaw the grading of every vat of cheese. Digman dreams of someday building her own on-farm creamery to craft artisan cheeses.
Gabriella Szmola is a dairy goat farmer in Salem, Wisconsin, and selectively breeds her herd of Nubian and Alpine goats for quality of milk for cheesemaking. In the 1960s, she immigrated with her parents to the U.S. from Hungary, and today, she, her husband, and their children are working toward establishing a farmstead creamery. She recently completed her Certificate in Dairy Processing and is continuing her Wisconsin cheesemaking courses.
Christopher Eckerman is a University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate with degrees in Food Science and Theater. He apprenticed under Master Cheesemaker Gary Grossen. His long-term goal is to continue the family farm and craft his own brand of seasonal sheep milk cheeses.