While the 2007 United States Championship Cheese Contest last week once again proved Wisconsin cheesemakers produce more award-winning cheeses than any other state (our cheesemakers took 89 total awards, 32 of which were golds), it also proved new Wisconsin farmstead cheesemakers are making some of the best cheese in the country.

In an exciting development, Brenda Jensen, Hidden Springs Creamery of Westby, Wis., earned her first gold medal and Best of Class distinction in the Soft and Semi-soft Sheep’s Milk Cheeses category with her Driftless Cheese, Honey Lavender. She also captured second and fourth places in the same categories with her other two varieties of Driftless Cheese.

This was the first year Brenda entered the contest – mainly because she just started crafting cheese last fall. Brenda and her husband, Dean, run a farm at the end of a winding road, perched on top of a high ridge in the heart of the Coulee Region — on the patchwork terrain of Wisconsin’s “Driftless Area.” (During the ice ages all the glaciers passed it by, hence the “Driftless” name.)

The Jensens milk 115 Lucane and East Friesian dairy sheep, which graze seasonally. The farm is also situated in a heavily populated Amish family community and Brenda and Dean work closely with the Amish. Dean serves as a community counselor and clinical therapist to the community.

The Jensens farm the old fashioned way, with draft power and no tractors or heavy equipment — only Percheron Draft horses. However, their dairy and milking parlor is a grade A farm with completely modern, new equipment.

In fact, Brenda left her management position in the corporate world to become the full-time Hidden Spring’s cheesemaker/ marketer, shepherd and gardener, investing her time in growing their farming business. She and Dean’s vision for Hidden Springs Farm and Creamery is to be sustainable environmentally as well as financially: an all-natural, back-to-basics, old-fashioned, original farmstead approach to farming, crafting their food products, as well as their marketing.

“Driftless Cheese “is made traditionally, using only natural products. Nothing is added to the natural product except: fresh sheep’s milk, culture, rennet and salt. They now have 3 varieties: Natural, Fresh Basil w/ extra virgin olive oil and Honey w/ lavender (all of which won awards at the U.S. Championship Cheese Contest).

Congratulations to Brenda & Dean on going 3 for 3 at the U.S. Championship Cheese Contest!

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