A historic cheese factory set in the scenic hills of Crawford County will celebrate its 100-year anniversary this year by getting a facelift and expanded artisan cheese line.
Mt. Sterling Co-op Creamery — today home to an award-winning line of goat’s milk cheeses and goat whey cream butter — was originally built in 1912 by a group of local dairy cow farmers who wanted to make more money from their excess cream. They succeeded, using a new innovation – the centrifugal cream separator — hauling milk to the factory in horse-drawn wagons, churning the cream into butter, and then returning the skim milk back to the farms, using it for livestock feed.
Over the years, the creamery — like many in Wisconsin — transitioned into a cow’s milk cheese plant, making cheddar. a state staple. In 1983, however, it was converted into a goat’s milk cheese plant, as by then, the Southwestern Wisconsin Dairy Goat Products Cooperative had enough demand for its goat’s cheeses that it needed its own facility. Today, as the last working cheese plant in Crawford County, the Mt. Sterling Co-op Creamery, with 16 farmer patrons, manufactures a full line of goat’s milk raw milk cheddars, pasteurized cheddars, country jack, mozzarella, Greek style feta and whey cream butter.
It is also specializes in an artisan line, with its first cheese, Sterling Reserve, winning national awards, including a third place at the 2011 American Cheese Society Competition. The company plans to expand its artisan line with a new cheese to be launched this fall at the Fourth Annual Wisconsin Cheese Originals Festival.
Marketing Director Patricia Lund, who has been with the cooperative for the past decade, says the board and its patrons are excited about the milestone anniversary. The board is even planning a new addition to the plant that will increase its efficiency in production, ensuring the century-old plant a solid life well into the future.
All of Mt. Sterling Co-op Creamery’s cheeses, crafted by cheesemaker Bjorn Unseth, are 100 percent natural and made with goat’s milk from producers dedicated to sustainable farming practices, Lund says. No coloring, additives or shortcuts are used, and all products are made with a non-GMO rennet.
Since its start, Mt. Sterling Co-op Creamery has enjoyed a steady growth in production and sales, with at least a 10 percent increase in sales each year during the past five years, Lund says. Today, its products are found in retail stores from coast to coast.
Congratulations to all the folks at Mt. Sterling Co-op Creamery, and we look forward to your future!