A Wisconsin dairy farmer interested in developing artisan goat cheeses in southwest Wisconsin has earned the 2013 Beginning Cheesemaker Scholarship from Wisconsin Cheese Originals, a 200-member organization dedicated to celebrating Wisconsin artisan cheesemakers.

Jennifer Digman, owner of Krayola Sky Dairy in Cuba City, was selected by a committee of industry leaders for the $2,500 annual award. Digman is mid-way through the requirements of earning a cheesemaker’s license, and is working to complete her apprenticeship hours.

As you know, Wisconsin is the only state in the nation to require cheesemakers to be licensed, an 18-month process that involves attendance at five university courses, 240 hours of apprenticeship under a licensed cheesemaker, and a written exam at the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture.

After using the scholarship money to earn her license, Digman said she has dreams of building an on-farm creamery to craft fresh, hand-dipped chevre, aged mixed milk artisan cheeses, and hand-washed Alpine-style cheese.

“I look forward to working side-by-side with my daughters, teaching them the Old World secrets of shepherding our animals and crafting cheeses,” Digman told me. “Being a female in a male-dominated dairy industry has had its hurdles, but with the help of some amazing mentors, I am blessed to understand the traditions of making great cheese.”

A committee made up of industry leaders selected Digman out of a field of 11 highly-qualified applicants. This marks the fourth year Wisconsin Cheese Originals has offered the $2,500 scholarship to a beginning cheesemaker. Past recipients have coincidentally all been women using sheep or goat’s milk to make cheese, a testament to the growing number of women putting Wisconsin on the map as the dairy artisan mecca of the nation.

Congratulations, Jennifer!