I had to chuckle last week when a friend and colleague in Wisconsin agriculture sent me this email: “I just can’t believe this – either you actually KNOW what you are doing or you are always the recipient of an ongoing string of LUCK.”

While I like to think I know what I’m doing most of the time, let’s face it, I’m almost always lucky. That’s what happened last week when my 2011 Portrait of a Wisconsin Artisan Cheesemaker calendar went on sale three days after Andy Hatch’s Pleasant Ridge Reserve was named the best cheese in the country at the American Cheese Society.

One of the best new cheesemakers in Wisconsin, Andy is featured on the cover of the calendar, holding a half wheel of Pleasant Ridge Reserve. The shot was taken back in June when photographer Becca Dilley and I went on the road for a week to take photos of 12 different Wisconsin artisan cheesemakers. I decided on the cover shot in late July, and had the calendars printed in time to go on sale Sept. 1. Little did I know that Andy Hatch would be the best-known cheesemaker in the country by then.

Andy is by far not alone in some exceptional talent featured on what I like to call the first Wisconsin Cheesemaker Pin-Up Calendar. Others featured in iconic photos include:
  • January: Joe Widmer, Widmer’s Cheese Cellars, pictured making his famous Brick Cheese
  • February: Willi Lehner, Bleu Mont Dairy, looking distinguished in his self-built underground cave
  • March: Chris Roelli, Roelli Cheese, pictured with his Dunbarton Blue
  • April: Katie Hedrich, LaClare Farm, holding a baby goat (Katie won the 2010 Wisconsin Cheese Originals beginning cheesemaker scholarship).
  • May: Andy Hatch, Uplands Cheese, looking skyward with his Pleasant Ridge Reserve
  • June: Gerald Heimerl, Saxon Homestead Creamery, posing with his herd of dairy cows on his farm near Cleveland, Wis.
  • July: Diana Murphy, Dreamfarm, hanging out with her dairy goats
  • August: Brenda Jensen, Hidden Springs Creamery, trying not to laugh as her sheep nibble on her butt
  • September: Bruce Workman, Edelweiss Creamery, looking nonchalant with hundreds of his 180-pound wheels of Emmentaler cheese
  • October: Sid Cook, Carr Valley Cheese, posing in his LaValle cheese plant in his standard flannel plaid shirt
  • November: Myron Olson, Chalet Cheese Cooperative, washing Limburger
  • December: Gianni Toffolon, BelGioioso Cheese, holding a 70-pound wheel of American Grana
The calendar is on sale for $19.95 at www.WisconsinCheeseOriginals.com, as well as at a handful of select specialty outlets in Wisconsin, including Fromagination in Madison and Larry’s Market in Brown Deer. The calendar will also be for sale at the Second Annual Wisconsin Original Cheese Festival, November 5 – 7, at the Monona Terrace in Madison. Tickets for the festival go on sale to the public on Sept. 20.

A portion of all calendar proceeds will go toward Wisconsin Cheese Originals’ annual $2,500 Wisconsin Licensed Cheesemaker Scholarship, available to any state resident intending to pursue a cheesemaker license.

I think blogger Tami Parr, at the Pacific Northwest Cheese Project, says it best: “So enough of those boring chocolate lab puppy calendars, those ‘Waterfalls of the West’ calendars, those dreary tropical beach scenes. Think bigger for next year….think something you love….think cheese. I’m certain this is what you’re going to need to set a new tone going into 2011.”

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