If you ask anyone to identify what makes Wisconsin special, they are likely to say cheese. Wisconsin cheesemakers have the same sense of pride and passion for what they do as some of the world’s best authors, athletes, and architects – which inspires them to do things they’d otherwise only dream of doing – like write best-selling novels, compete in the Olympics, and build the world’s tallest skyscrapers. Because when you are truly passionate about something, you will dedicate your entire life to it.
When a cheesemaker completes the Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker program, they have earned right to use the Masters Mark on his or her packaging and marketing. To commemorate 25 years of excellence, the universal Masters Mark logo received an update. In an effort to personalize and celebrate the completion of a Master Cheesemaker certification, each Master Cheesemaker will receive a personalized hand-drawn mark to use on their packaging. So that’s why in Wisconsin, the cheesemakers are determined to become masters.
This year marks an exciting milestone with the 25th anniversary of the Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker program – the nation’s most advanced education program in the art and science of cheesemaking. Its rigorous standards are a key factor driving Wisconsin’s dairy innovation and leadership forward, despite an increasingly competitive national and global marketplace.
Becoming a Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker is no small feat. It requires ten years of experience as a licensed cheesemaker, several years of coursework, a three-year apprenticeship, a written exam that can take up to 50 hours to complete and a lifetime commitment to cheese. The time it takes to complete the program is comparable to the time it takes to become a doctor.
“It’s no secret that Wisconsin wins more awards for its cheese than any other state, region or nation,” says Suzanne Fanning, Senior Vice President for Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin and Chief Marketing Office for Wisconsin Cheese. “What may be a secret, though, is Wisconsin’s own Master Cheesemaker program. It is one of the key drivers for our state’s high honors.”
It’s an intense commitment and impressive accomplishment to become a Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker – one that only 90 cheesemakers have achieved in the past 25 years. Wisconsin and Switzerland are the only places in the world with this level of education.
Wisconsin began making cheese before it was even a state and the first people to settle in Wisconsin were expert cheesemakers from places like Switzerland, Germany, and Italy. Their cheesemaking expertise was one of the few things they brought with them. They chose Wisconsin because the soil, water, and climate provided the perfect conditions for doing what they’d been doing for centuries in the Old World… making great cheese.
To celebrate this momentous milestone, Wisconsin Cheese is traveling the country to tell these stories and showcase the new personalized Master’s Marks, which identify products only made by Wisconsin Master Cheesemakers.