The big news in dairy world this week is that Woolwich Dairy, Canada’s largest goat cheese producer, has selected Lancaster, Wisconsin as its U.S. headquarters. CEO Tony Dutra announced at a press conference on Tuesday that Woolwich will build a 30,000 sq. ft. plant and employ 30 when the facility opens in Lancaster’s industrial park in summer 2007. (The above photo was taken at the event – pictured from left is Tony Dutra, Secretary of Ag Rod Nilsestuen, Olga Dutra and Governor Jim Doyle).

This is a big deal for Wisconsin. We have about 145 goat dairies and the industry is rapidly growing. Woolwich will be sourcing all of its milk regionally around Lancaster, which means farmers will now have another source for their milk, and Wisconsin will need to start developing more goat farms.

Tying into the announcement, the Wisconsin Dept. of Agriculture just kicked off a goat milk initiative here in the state. Interest is at an all-time high, as last week they had more than 50 people including UW-Extension agents, veterinarians, technical college instructors and cheesemakers attend workshops on dairy goat production, processing and marketing.

Many people are under the impression that goats are really just small cows. You would think this is obvious, but the make-up of goat’s milk and the process in which it produces high-quality milk is entirely different. Plus, goats are smarter than cows. I’ve been in both a goat-milking parlor and a cow-milking parlor and you really have to sweet talk the goats into doing what you want. There’s got to be an incentive in it for them. Otherwise they basically look at you and go “Yeah, right. So exactly what are you going to do for me if I walk into that parlor?” Food is usually key.

So bottom line, you should be seeing Woolwich Dairy goat cheeses in Wisconsin stores next summer that are no longer imported, but made right here in America’s Dairyland. My favorite Woolwich products include the Gourmet Goat and Madame Chevre varieties, and their Goat Brie.