|An artist’s rendering of the new LaClare Farms storefront.|
Katie Hedrich, the reigning U.S. Champion Cheesemaker (and 2010 Wisconsin Cheese Originals Beginning Cheesemaker Scholarship winner), announced her family dairy, LaClare Farms, will break ground this week on a new 35,000 sq. ft. farmstead dairy plant in eastern Wisconsin.
The new dairy will be on State Hwy 151, north of the village of Pipe on the eastern shore of Lake Winnebago. The facility includes plans for a state-of-the-art dairy plant, retail store and café, as well as milking parlor with housing for 600 milking goats. The facility will be capable of processing cow, goat and sheep milk. In addition to crafting LaClare Farms products, the facility will serve as a specialty custom dairy processing and aging facility.
“This week is the start of the biggest week of my life,” said Katie. Her parents, Larry and Clara Hedrich – dairy goat farmers and industry leaders for more than 30 years – agree.
“Building this farmstead dairy plant allows us to bring the next generation of Hedrich family members back to the farm,” Katie’s father, Larry said. “Our goal is to be one of the top sustainable agricultural enterprises in the nation, and with the talent our team brings to this operation, we will be.”
The new farmstead dairy plant allows the Hedrich family to expand their current offering of goat’s milk and mixed milk cheeses, including Evalon, Fresh Chevre, Cheddar, Fondy Jack and American Originals crafted by Katie Hedrich, who without her own facility, has been making five-hour round trips to Willow Creek cheese factory several times a week to make Evalon and LaClare cheeses. The Hedrichs’ new farmstead facility will also be capable of aging cheese in special curing rooms, as well as producing cultured products and bottled milk.
Katie’s brother, Greg Hedrich, is the business manager of the new integrated agricultural enterprise. Three additional sisters: Heather, Jessica and Anna, will work part-time for LaClare Farms in human resources, marketing and herd management roles while continuing their off-enterprise jobs. All five siblings hold university degrees in subjects ranging from marketing to human resources to dairy science to education.
“The key is each one of the children is not forced into one role,” Larry says. “They each chose to go to college, worked in the public/private sector for a number of years and now have chosen to bring their skills back to the family enterprise. We are beyond thrilled to have the next generation back on the farm.” The enterprise also brings the talents of Larry’s cousin, John Jenkins, on board.
An official groundbreaking ceremony is set for Saturday, Dec. 15 at 2 p.m. at the new facility. The public is invited. The location is: W2994 County Road HH, on the corner of State Hwy 151 and County Road HH in Pipe.
The groundbreaking is just the latest example of Wisconsin’s thriving artisan and farmstead cheesemaking industry. The amount of specialty cheese produced in the state has doubled in the past 10 years, and today accounts for 22 percent of the state’s total cheese production. Ninety of the state’s 126 cheese plants craft at least one type of specialty cheese, up from 77 plants five years ago.
The new LaClare farmstead dairy plant is expected to be up and running by early summer, 2013. In addition to crafting LaClare Farm products, the Hedrichs plan to rent out space to dairy processors to help launch new products and to work with beginning dairy entrepreneurs to develop their new products. The facility will also offer viewing windows into the milking parlor, dairy plant and cheese aging room which will be available to the public.
Congratulations to the Hedrich family – I look forward to following your progress and touring your new facility in 2013!