A new documentary highlighting the differences between the dairy industries in California and Wisconsin will make its debut at the Wisconsin Film Festival on Saturday, April 4. 

Cheese Wars is a 30-minute look at how California’s growing milk production has changed Wisconsin’s status as America’s Dairyland. It’s written, directed and produced by Taylor Pipes, who graduated with a broadcast journalism degree from the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee in 2002. He moved to San Francisco and began studying at the Graduate School of Journalism at Berkeley in 2006. “Cheese Wars” is his thesis project and looks at the humorous and serious side of the battle for cheese production dominance between California and Wisconsin.
Taylor contacted me back in April 2008 to let me know he was following my blog and had interviewed many of the Wisconsin folks featured in it. Yesterday, I heard from him again, only this time, his film is done! I checked out the trailer, and he’s right – there is the serious side, featuring an interview with Patrick Geoghegan of the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, where Mr. Geoghegan sits in a dimly lit room and soberly proclaims: 
“The dairy industry in Wisconsin is very important. When we get calls from the media wanting to do the ‘ha ha’ story about cheese wars, it’s not funny.”
And then we flip to the California Happy Cow commercials, where talking cows proclaim they’re moving west where it’s warmer. My favorite part is a quote taken from the set where the commercials are shot. It’s from Todd Horrick, a Marin County beef rancher: “They were Union cows, they can’t take one of my cows and use them — we tried that.” 
Good to know that even the cows in California apparently have Hollywood contracts.
While I have no idea how the film ends or who all is featured, it’s pretty easy to tell which side the Wisconsin Film Festival is on by the trailer copy posted on its website:
“As California’s milk and cheese production has skyrocketed, it has changed Wisconsin’s position as America’s Dairyland. This documentary compares the standard dairies out west (5000-cow operations milked on metal carousels) with our own local farms (small herds with more pasture). Both claim advantages that the other doesn’t have — so which is better? Higher yields per cow, or better tasting cheese made with tradition? Go Wisconsin!” 
To see the film at the Wisconsin Film Festival, buy your tickets now. The festival is very popular and always sells out. Taylor is also working on a distributor deal to get the film out into the more general viewing public. Let’s hope he also gets a deal to make some movie posters. I can’t wait to get one on my wall.

6 thoughts on “Cheese Wars

  1. Hey Jeanne,The Cheese Wars film sounds great; I hope I get to see it. Your description of the rivalry between WI and CA inspired me to write a post about WI cheese. I think it important to periodically feature WI’s free-range cows. Our state owes these impressive creatures so much. If not for our cows, WI’s main industry might be insurance. And insurance wouldn’t be nearly as much fun to write about. So thanks for the post and keeping us posted on the best of Wisconsin cheeses.

  2. I’m very intrigued by this film. Half my family worked in the dairy industry when I was a kid…but none of them are anymore. It’s a very important part of the economy and history of Wisconsin.

  3. Wow, this sounds like a lot of fun! Please, please, please keep us updated so we can know when/how/where to buy a copy. Thanks Jeanne!

  4. I was so excited to hear about this film. Then I realized I will be “back East” during the showing. Curses!Do you know if there are any plans for distribution?

  5. Thanks for posting on this. I really can’t wait to see the movie. I just went to a presentation last night (on anaerobic digesters) that had some interesting statistics: 90+ % of WI milk goes to cheese20% of CA milk goes to cheese60% of CA cheese goes to dry milk The average herd size in WI is 54The average herd size in CA is 1027(that should be taken as a grain of salt-just like American’s have 1.2 children- but it’s still telling!)

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