From making Swiss cheese in copper kettles as a teenager to owning a specialty cheese factory, my lifelong career in Wisconsin's dairy industry has taught unforgettable lessons. To be a successful cheesemaker, start with high-quality milk, never stop learning, and take advantage of opportunities like the Master Cheesemaker Program!
The Master Cheesemaker Program is a series of rigorous education courses for experienced cheesemakers created 26 years ago by the Center for Dairy Research, University of Wisconsin-Extension, and Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin (DFW). The program has helped me stay on top of my cheesemaking game.
It is the only program of its kind outside of Europe and requires years of commitment and skill development. Qualifying cheesemakers must make cheese in a Wisconsin plant and hold a Wisconsin cheesemaker license for 10 years before even applying. We also must pass plant food safety inspections and a formal interview to even be considered for the program.
As a lifelong cheesemaker, I’ve found it's important to keep learning and developing the tools of my craft. This program is a gratifying experience that long outlasts the time spent on classes.
As one of the 91 Wisconsin Master Cheesemakers to have earned the title, I am proud and excited to be part of such an elite group. The program taught me what I didn’t know and helped underscore the value of what I did know about making exceptional Wisconsin cheese.
Mark of distinction
After completing the program, cheesemakers like me earn the right to use the Master’s Mark on our certified cheese varieties and receive our personal Masters logo. Using this logo is a privilege not to be taken lightly.
The Master's Mark is a powerful marketing tool. It reminds customers they are buying a high-quality cheese crafted by someone who has mastered the art of cheesemaking and understands cheesemaking’s artistry and tradition.
The mark also offers a tighter connection with customers and consumers, serving as a visible reminder of Wisconsin's dedication to excellence. They appreciate what the mark stands for – and it provides another opportunity for DFW to tell the story of award-winning Wisconsin cheese made from high-quality milk produced by the state's dairy farm families.
We know retailers and restaurants seek out Master Cheesemaker products, further extending the value of Wisconsin's milk. Through DFW partnerships, a major retailer – top five in number of locations — sought out a Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker to develop brand-specific cheeses for its stores, allowing the cheese company to grow its business and procure more milk.
At Arena Cheese, increased customer confidence and recognition of quality cheese have meant mutual growth and production expansion opportunities for Wisconsin cheese.
Hanson is co-owner of Arena Cheese Inc. and has earned Master Cheesemaker certifications in Gouda, Colby and Colby Jack varieties.