In a press release issued today, the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association, one of the state's longest-lived industry associations, pledged a gift of $500,000 - yes, that's half a million dollars - to the University of Wisconsin to "ignite dairy industry and public interest in renovating and expanding venerable Babcock Hall."
Babcock Hall, built in 1950, is home to the UW Food Science Department and the Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. On campus, it may be best known for its famous Babcock Hall Ice Cream (made in the campus dairy plant), but off campus, around the state and nation, Babcock Hall is renowned as a vital teaching and research hub. It boasts a collection of world-class researchers whose work, training, trouble-shooting and product development skills have helped revitalize Wisconsin's dairy industry.
In giving the $500,000 gift, the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association says it's striving to bring attention to the need for reconstruction and expansion of the Babcock Hall dairy plant, now more than 60 years old. Such construction would include an all new dairy plant, research and education space.
John Umhoefer, executive director of the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association, says the time is now to reinvest in the university's research center, as the state's dairy farms and cheesemakers have reinvested more than $1 billion in their operations since 2005.
“During a difficult national recession, Wisconsin dairy farms have added cows and produced more milk and cheese manufacturers have added new full-time jobs and built new facilities,” Umhoefer said. “Our Association’s commitment to a modern teaching, research and dairy production plant at Babcock Hall underscores our long-term optimism toward dairy in Wisconsin.”
To accept the gift, the UW Foundation has established a CDR/Dairy Plant Building Fund, which will be open to any and all who wish to contribute to the reconstruction of Babcock Hall's dairy production facility.
The reconstruction of Babcock Hall would be the icing on the cake to Wisconsin’s dairy industry - which generates $26 billion in economic activity in the state, supporting more than 100,000 jobs. Since 2005, the state's dairy farmers have grown milk production 10 percent. Likewise, cheese production has risen to a record 2.62 billion pounds and Wisconsin retains its position as the nation’s No. 1 cheese-producing state.
Today, nearly half of all specialty cheese available in the nation is produced in Wisconsin. Groups including the Dairy Business Innovation Center, the Center for Dairy Research, Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association and others have contributed to that growth by supporting the state's dairy processors and producers with technical and financial assistance in modernizing their facilities. Now it's time to modernize the nation's most venerable research center: Babcock Hall. Thanks to the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association, we're off to a grand start.