Friday, August 15, 2008

The Bekkums: Wisconsin Success Story

Sometimes, good things DO happen to good people. Hallelujah.

Case in point: Al & Sarah Bekkum, who started their own business, Nordic Creamery, about a year ago in rural Westby, have undergone the typical challenges and setbacks that any start-up faces. But today they are preparing to partner with distributors for Midwestern and national distribution for their award winning goat and mixed milk cheeses.

I couldn't be happier for them. Al & Sarah are the proud parents of six children - five boys and a baby girl. For 20 years, Al worked as a cheesemaker at plants in Wisconsin and Ohio, winning many awards during his tenure. But a year ago, Al & Sarah got the itch to start their own business. They wanted to create an avenue for their growing family to continue in the dairy industry if they so wished.

It looks like their wishes are coming true.

Just off winning a coveted first-place Best of Class blue ribbon at the 25th annual American Cheese Society annual competition in Chicago for his Capriko, an artisan cheese made from a perfect blend of goat and cow’s milk, and after capturing a silver medal for the same cheese at the World Championship Cheese Awards in March 2008, Al & Sarah will soon sign agreements for their cheeses go be distributed in the Midwest and hopefully nationwide.

Here's what will soon be coming to a store near you:

  • Capriko -- as mentioned above, this cheese is crafted as a firm cheese in a 10-pound wheel and cellar-aged to achieve its smooth rind and sweet nutty flavor.

  • Feddost -- this signature cheese -- an American Original that is a blend of goat and cow milk created by Al -- is handcrafted with a curd infusion of cumin and cloves, a Norwegian flavor tradition. Formed in 10-pound wheels, it is also cellar-aged.

  • Mountain Jack -- a pasteurized goat's milk semi-soft cheese

  • Cheddars -- Al makes a pasteurized goat's milk cheddar in the traditional style and sells it as mild, aged and smoked.
Al makes all his Nordic Creamery cheeses at Bob Wills' Cedar Grove Cheese plant in Plain, Wis. He uses high quality milk from small family farms and travels from his farm near Westby to Plain to craft the cheeses.

And, in exciting news, by spring, the Bekkums hope to expand into making specialty butters, such as goat's milk butter and mixed-milk butter, with a long-term goal of building their own farmstead dairy plant on their farm in Vernon County in the next few years.

I hope you join me in congratulating the Bekkums by buying their cheese the next time you see Nordic Creamery varieties in a store near you.

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