A 25-year-old woman planning to make cheese on her family farm is the recipient of the first-ever Wisconsin Licensed Cheesemaker Scholarship, a $2,500 award provided by Wisconsin Cheese Originals.
After using the scholarship money to earn her cheesemaker license, Katie Hedrich plans to rejoin her family and help construct a farmstead cheese plant and retail store at LaClare Farm near Chilton. With a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Northern Michigan University, and a degree in accounting from the Fox Valley Technical College, Hedrich is preparing herself to not only craft high-quality farmstead cheeses, but to also manage the marketing and business side of the operation.
“Ten years from now I will be the head cheesemaker and creamery manager at my family’s homestead creamery,” Katie stated in her award-winning scholarship essay. “I will be making a complete line of Wisconsin original goat milk cheeses, from fresh bloomy rind cheese to raw aged cheeses. I would like to be the first female Master Goat Milk Cheesemaker.”
You go, girl.
Wisconsin Cheese Originals is an organization I started last year in an effort to help grow and promote the Wisconsin artisan cheese community. As an organization, we (and by we, I mostly mean me and the people I talk into helping me - my husband, my daughter, my various exchange daughters who, every year, come to live with us not liking cheese and leave as cheeseheads -- ahh, mission accomplished) host seminars, tasting receptions, cheesemaking tours and the annual Wisconsin Original Cheese Festival, scheduled this year on Nov. 5-7 at the Monona Terrace in Madison, Wis.
In fact, the scholarship is the direct result of first-ever Wisconsin Original Cheese Festival last year, in which I actually made a little money. Whoo-hoo! As I didn't do the event to make a profit, I instead decided to offer a scholarship to a burgeoning cheesemaker with plans to make it an annual award, because really, the goal of the scholarship fund compliments the goal of the organization: which celebrates Wisconsin’s original cheeses and helps connect consumers to farmstead, artisan and specialty cheesemakers.
I was a little nervous in offering the scholarship - I mean, who wants to throw a party and not have anyone come - but was amazed to receive nine absolute stellar applications from aspiring cheesemakers by the March 15 deadline. I then gave copies of each application to my five-person scholarship committee (made up of industry leaders and cheesemakers) and asked them to pick the recipient.
Needless to say, I am absolutely delighted that Katie is the first scholarship winner. I'm very much looking forward to following her career and tasting her Wisconsin Original cheeses in the coming years. Congratulations, Katie!