Kirk Hansen of Nasonville Dairy is one of Wisconsin’s Master Cheesemakers.

As news of Nasonville Dairy’s recent wins at the 35th biennial World Championship Cheese Contest began to reach our plant floor, we shared high-fives and congratulations all around. Making award-winning Wisconsin cheese is something we do every day, but it certainly feels special to receive global recognition. Our small company sources milk from 170 local, family-owned farms, and we feel our fresh ingredients, advanced training, and commitment to quality give us a competitive edge.

Our tight-knit team at Nasonville Dairy includes four Master Cheesemakers who have received advanced training and product support at the Center for Dairy Research (CDR), funded in part by the dairy checkoff. CDR is a valuable asset for dairy farmers, spearheading innovation and providing essential support to ensure dairy plants operate efficiently, thereby facilitating greater use of Wisconsin’s high-quality milk.

I earned my certification as a Cheddar and Monterey Jack Master Cheesemaker in 2020 and try to do my part to contribute to the state's rich cheesemaking tradition. Continued partnership with the team at CDR helps us create innovative products that are a favorite among consumers and receive top scores from contest judges who are experts in taste and texture.

Ken Heiman developed many of our recipes, and we've turned to the CDR team to help tweak them to near perfection. (Our Monterey Jack earned a score of 99.6 and took first place in its category at the 2024 World Championship Cheese Contest. We also received scores above 99 and took second in open class cheese curds and marbled cheese curd categories).

One of the most satisfying things about winning was knowing that we pull competition cheeses from a normal day’s run. We don’t make special batches for competitions. Contest judges see and taste the same craftsmanship we offer our customers.

Nasonville Dairy is among many Wisconsin dairy companies celebrating major wins this year. In 2024, the World Championship Cheese Contest received 3,302 product entries (cheese, butter, yogurt, and dry dairy ingredients) from more than 400 dairy manufacturers from 25 countries and 32 U.S. states. Wisconsin took home over 36% of all cow’s milk cheese awards, sweeping 21 classes.

Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker products were again named among the top 20 cheeses in the world. Certified Master Cheesemaker Kerry Henning and the team at Henning’s Cheese of Kiel, Wis., were recognized for their traditional waxed Cheddar, sharp to aged. Cello Copper Kettle Parmesan, made by Master Cheesemaker Christophe Megevand and the team at Schuman Cheese in Turtle Lake, Wis., was also among the leading specialty cheeses.

I can appreciate the hard work and career commitment required to earn these accolades. The Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker Program provides experienced participants with the knowledge and skills to reach the highest levels of our craft. The advanced education program, which is offered through joint sponsorship with CDR, University of Wisconsin Division of Extension, and Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin, helps the Cheese State continue to combine over 180 years of heritage with industry-leading innovation. Congratulations to all.

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(c) Hoard's Dairyman Intel 2024
April 18, 2024
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