Tuesday, June 29, 2010

2011 Cheesemaker Calendar

Exciting news, fellow cheese geeks: a 2011 Portrait of a Wisconsin Cheesemaker wall calendar featuring 12 artisan cheesemakers in America's Dairyland will debut this fall.

Two weeks ago, photographer Becca Dilley and I hit the road for a five-day field trip, shooting photographs of 12 cheesemakers in five days. Over 1,000 miles later, we finished with an amazing array of cheesemaker portraits, each stunning and different. (That's us, above, being eaten by friendly goats at Diana Murphy's farm).

Becca will have the final shots to me in a couple of weeks, and then graphic designer Mauro Magellan will work his magic on putting together the actual pages.
The end result will be a Wisconsin Cheese Originals calendar available in September, retailing at $19.95 at select gourmet specialty food and cheese shops, as well as online, and at the Second Annual Wisconsin Original Cheese Festival in Madison this November.

Here's a sneak preview of the 12 cheesemakers and the text I just finished writing for each:

January – Joe Widmer
Entering Widmer's Cheese Cellars in the tiny town of Theresa, Wis., is like stepping back in time. "Very little has changed in the 80-plus years that my family has been making cheese here," says Joe Widmer, a third generation cheesemaker. Joe prides himself in combining modern science with Old World art to hand-craft two of the best-known cheeses invented in Wisconsin: Brick and Colby. He’s the only cheesemaker still making Brick cheese with bricks, and one of a handful still crafting Authentic Colby with an open curd texture. His award-winning cheeses are evidence of his “take no shortcuts” motto.

February – Willi Lehner
He’s been called an “off-the-grid rock star cheesemaker” by the New York Times, profiled as a “local hero” in Saveur Magazine, and captured on film yodeling in his underground cheese cave, but Willi Lehner doesn’t let such accolades go to his head. A cheesemaker in the truest sense of the word, Willi relies on intuition and innovation to make some of the best hand-made cheese in America. You’ll find him every Saturday, rain or shine, at the Dane County Farmer’s Market in Madison, selling the fruits of his labor: the science and art we call cheese.

March – Chris Roelli

It took nearly a year for fourth generation cheesemaker Chris Roelli to perfect the recipe of Dunbarton Blue, one of the best and newest Wisconsin Original cheeses. One bite of this open-air cured, earthy cheddared-blue will make you glad he took his time. Imparting the feel of an English cheddar, but spiked with the delicate, subtle flavor of a fine blue, Dunbarton Blue is named after a neighboring local township between Shullsburg and Darlington, Wis. The cheese is handcrafted in small batches and aged in the family’s historic aging cellar, where it ripens to perfection surrounded by a rock wall foundation.

April – Katie Hedrich

Ever wonder what an aspiring cheesemaker looks like? Look no further. As the face of the next generation of Wisconsin artisan cheesemakers, Katie Hedrich was the 2010 recipient of Wisconsin Cheese Originals’ annual $2,500 cheesemaker scholarship. Katie and her family plan to build a farmstead cheese plant on their home goat dairy farm near Chilton, Wis., and in 10 years, she hopes to be the first female Master Goat Milk Cheesemaker in Wisconsin. You go, girl.

May – Andy Hatch

If what Uplands cheesemaker Andy Hatch says is true -- that half of the secret to making Pleasant Ridge Reserve is simply getting out of the way of the milk and letting its unique properties and flavor profile shine through – then many would argue the other half to the secret of this near-perfect cheese is Andy Hatch himself. Andy joined the Uplands Cheese team near Dodgeville, Wis., in 2007, and with Mike Gingrich, continues to craft the one farmstead cheese that first put the Wisconsin artisan cheese community on the map. Made only from milk when the farm’s dairy cows are grazing on fresh grass, Pleasant Ridge Reserve can be found in nearly every specialty cheese shop and four-star restaurant in the country.

June – Gerald Heimerl

One family, one herd, one farm. The cheeses that come from Saxon Homestead Creamery in Cleveland, Wis., all start with the milk of one herd of cows who graze on fresh grass in the summer, and eat preserved grass and hay in the winter. Gerald (Jerry) Heimerl, his wife, Elise, along with her brothers and their families, today manage the Saxon homestead farm and nearby creamery, a tribute to their ancestors who emigrated from Germany in the 1840s. Saxon cheeses, such as Big Ed’s, Green Fields, Saxony and Pastures, reflect the different seasons in the herd's diet. Jerry calls it “flavor by nature.” We call it “really good cheese.”

July – Diana Murphy

Diana Murphy and her family started with just a few goats. But, as goats will do, two goats became four goats, which became eight goats, and soon, a “herd” was producing more milk than the family could use on their small farm near Cross Plains, Wis. Diana began experimenting with making different goat’s milk cheeses and found that fresh goat cheeses complimented her skills and the milk. She set out to get licensed as a cheesemaker and completed the two-year process in 2004. Today, Dreamfarm supplies goat’s milk cheeses for Vermont Valley Community Farm, a CSA supplying fresh fruits, vegetables, and now fresh goat’s milk cheese to families across Wisconsin.

August – Brenda Jensen

Brenda Jensen never planned on being a cheesemaker. Sure, she could blame her husband, Dean, for bringing home the first 50 sheep (or as she calls them, “the ladies”) five years ago to their farm near Westby, Wis. But once she got her hands on the milk, she wanted to make cheese. Today, Brenda is recognized as one of the best sheep’s milk cheesemakers in the nation. Her hand-made Driftless cheese, named for the farm’s location in the “Driftless” part of the state – is soft and creamy and crafted in a variety of seasonal flavors with ingredients sourced locally. Her hard sheep’s milk cheeses, including Ocooch Mountain, is a mountain-style, raw-milk cheese aged 3-4 months.

September – Bruce Workman

Bruce Workman has the distinction of being the only cheesemaker in North America making “Big Wheel Swiss. “ His Edelweiss Emmentaler, crafted in a historic cheese plant near Monticello, Wis., is made using raw milk and a traditional Swiss copper vat. Each wheels weighs about 180 pounds and ages peacefully in the company’s cellars in Monroe. Edelweiss partners with a cooperative of dairy farmers dedicated to pasturing cows to bring a pure but complex flavor profile to a line of cheeses made from pastured milk. Soon, his Edelweiss Emmentaler will be made only from the milk of these grass-fed cows, earning Bruce yet another distinction: grass-based cheesemaker.

October – Sid Cook

If Master Cheesemaker Sid Cook at Carr Valley Cheese in LaValle, Wis., was required to wear every medal, carry every trophy and don every ribbon he's ever won for making specialty cheeses, he wouldn't be able to move under all the weight. Clocking in at more than 200 national and international awards in the past five years alone, the man officially is a cheese genius. As the inventor of at least 50 American Original cheeses -- meaning he simply made them up – it’s sometimes challenging to keep up with all the new cheeses Sid dreams up. But we keep trying.

November – Myron Olson

In its heyday, cheese factories in Green County, Wisconsin, produced nearly 3.8 million pounds of Limburger a year. Today, one factory is left: Chalet Cheese Cooperative, home to the last remaining American manufacturer of the granddaddy of stinky cheese. And nobody knows Limburger better than Myron Olson, who’s been making it for 40 years at Chalet. While production is down to about 700,000 pounds a year, demand remains steady. There’s even talk of a stinky cheese comeback. Just last year, Olson resurrected Liederkranz, a long-lost cousin of Limburger, and orders for the new stinky cheese are strong. Looks like this is one Wisconsin tradition not ending anytime soon.

December – Gianni Toffolon

Surrounded by thousands of wheels of American Grana in the aging rooms of BelGioioso Cheese near Pulaski, Wis., cheesemaker Gianni Toffolon says he never gets tired of breathing in the deep, nutty aroma of aged Italian cheeses. Gianni came to America in 1979 with BelGioioso founder Errico Auricchio to start making authentic Italian cheeses in Wisconsin. More than 30 years later, he’s helped the company win nearly every major national and international award for the company’s line of specialty and artisan cheeses and has set a standard of excellence in the industry.

Stay tuned for details on when and where you can get your copy!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Kelley Country Creamery

After four years of due diligence and market research that included visiting hundreds of dairy plants and retail operations, Karen Kelley and her family celebrated the grand opening of their farmstead ice cream factory this past weekend. Located just a mile off Hwy 41 south of Fond du Lac, Kelley Country Creamery is an ice cream oasis in the middle of dairy country.

The Kelleys craft 61 different flavors of ice cream - everything from Bleu Cheese Pear to Maple Bacon to old-fashioned Whitewash Vanilla. Customers pull up to a rustic-looking retail store, order their ice cream (I'd recommend adding a home-made waffle cone), and eat it while sitting in one of the many rocking chairs on the front porch, or inside an air-conditioned lobby.

The Kelley's ice cream tastes di
fferent (and I would argue better) than most ice creams you've ever had, because 1) it starts with farm-fresh, non-homogenized milk from the Kelley herd of 65 Holsteins, 2) is created into a mix at the local Lamer's Dairy, and 3) is then combined with top quality local ingredients to create a premium ice cream that truly tastes homemade.

In fact, if you've ever made homemade ice cream, you'll recognize the taste right away. Milky, creamy, just pure dairy - I tried eight different flavors on Saturday and never discovered a kind I didn't like. It reminds me of the ice cream we used to make in elementary school - when our teacher would bring in her own little ice cream maker, and we'd combine all the ingredients, mix it vigorously and have home-made ice cream for an afternoon treat.

About 1,500 people turned out for the grand opening on Saturday, enjoying ice cream, free t-shirt give-aways, a kids tent with activities and various games, all with the backdrop of the Kelley's serene herd of dairy cows grazing in the background.

The day started with a noon ceremony, in which Jim Gage of the Dairy Business Innovation Center presented Karen and Tim Kelley with a letter of congratulations from Ag Secretary Rod Nilsestuen and a plaque from Governor Jim Doyle.

Karen then introduced her entire family, all smartly outfitted with Kelley green shirts. Kids Amy, Betsy, Heidi, Molly and Clark all seem to have a hand in the business, with Betsy even quitting her full-time marketing job at Miller-Coors to come home and help mom run the family business.

The highlight of the day had to be the "Wife Carrying Contest", in which husbands carried their wives over their shoulders through an obstacle course. The wives wisely wore bike helmets (a few dropped on their heads - ouch) - but everyone seemed to be having an exceptional time. Later on, the brain freeze ice-cream eating contest attracted several contestants and a good time was had by all.

The next time you're in the Fond du Lac area, be sure and stop by the Kelley Country Creamery. Not only do the Kelleys make great ice cream, they sure know how to throw a good party.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

100-Year Old Cheese Plant

For a guy who's 92, Arnold Imobersteg has got a lot of living left. Still farming just over the Wisconsin border near Orangeville, Illinois, Arnold recently took a look inside a building that's sat on his family farmstead for more than 100 years and decided it was time to share the wealth.

So on Thursday, June 24 at 4 p.m., (the public is invited) Arnold will host a groundbreaking at the National Historic Cheesemaking Center in Monroe, where his century-old wooden farmstead cheese plant that's sat unused and undiscovered for nearly 100 years will be moved, and where it will once again be making cheese by year’s end.

Unbeknownst to just about everyone in the dairy industry (probably because he's about 5 miles shy of being a Wisconsin dairy farmer), Arnold is donating his farm’s cheese plant to the National Historic Cheesemaking Center in Monroe. The plant has sat unused on the Imobersteg Farmstead since 1917 and contains all of the original cheesemaking equipment, including the copper kettle, press table, huge intake wheel and wooden press bars.

“This is a one-of-a-kind find,” says Mary Ann Hanna, Executive Director at the National Historic Cheesemaking Center, who was kind enough to go with me to interview Arnold at his 400-acre farm last week. "It's just unheard of to find something like this with all of the original equipment intact. We are just thrilled."

Hanna says the Center will now be able to demonstrate how cheese was made in the late 1800s and early 1900s, which is especially exciting, as they've never had the equipment or facility to do that before. She's got several Green County cheesemakers chomping at the bit to make cheese the old fashioned way - by hand, without electricity or running water - in the factory once it's moved.

Turns out that Arnold's farmstead cheese factory (calling it a factory is a bit of a stretch by today's standards - it's actually a 20-by-20 foot wooden shed with brick chimney, but in its day was state-of-the-art) has a long and storied history, some of it unknown even to the current owner. Arnold says the facility was probably already on the farm when his parents, Anna and Alfred, bought the small dairy in 1902, after immigrating from Switzerland. His parents made cheese, and later hired a cheesemaker to make Brick, Swiss and Limburger twice a day from the milk of the family’s 40 dairy cows, all milked by hand. The cheese was then shipped to Monroe by horse and wagon and sold to a number of cheese buyers, including Badger Cheese Company.

“My parents also had neighbors bringing in their milk with horses and wagons, and would make cheese for them,” Imobersteg said. “They made a lot of cheese by hand with no electricity and no running water. I sure wish I’d had been here to see it.”

Imobersteg never witnessed cheese being made on the farm, because the year before he was born, the Imoberstegs and all of their neighbors were required to start shipping their milk to the nearby Borden Factory in Orangeville, Ill., where it was processed into condensed milk and shipped to soldiers overseas serving in World War I.

By the time the war ended, a larger, more modern cheese factory had been built just up the road, and the Imoberstegs instead sold their milk to that facility. Their farmstead cheese plant was transformed into a storage and laundry room. As a child, Arnold can remember his mother heating water in the copper kettle, washing clothes, and hanging them to dry from the wooden beams and press bars.

Over the years, Imobersteg said he’s used the wooden cheese factory as mostly a storage shed, and never really considered the historic value of the building and its contents until last fall, when folks from the National Historic Cheesemaking Center learned of the factory and asked if they could visit.

“I guess I didn’t understand what all the fuss was about,” Imobersteg said, after he watched Mary Ann Hanna become speechless after taking a glance inside the cheese plant, and seeing the copper kettle still hanging from a wooden arm that swung on and off to go over a wood fire. She later brought back experts from the industry, including area Wisconsin cheesemakers who agreed to help restore and move the facility to Monroe.

“I’m glad it’s going to be restored and I’m sure looking forward to watching cheese be made in it again,” Imobersteg said. “That’ll sure be something to see.”

Friday, June 11, 2010

Staying Alert

Starting about the time I was 14 years old - the precise moment when a teen girl's mind starts to wander away from the farm task at hand and into town where the boys are - my father used to tell me to "stay alert." One of his favorite sayings was: "Try to stay alert, kid. The world needs more alerts."

I was reminded of that saying this afternoon, as today was one of those days where I didn't "stay alert." Driving back to my home office in Oregon on the long straight stretch of Hwy 69 between Monroe and New Glarus, I did the unthinkable as a former farm girl. I didn't slow down when I saw a tractor in the distance.

Too busy admiring the dairy cows basking in their day spa of lush grass in the pasture to my right, and singing aloud at the top of my voice to a Ricky Martin song on the radio (yes - I know, Ricky Martin - mock me later), I noticed a few seconds too late that the tractor was actually idling on the side of the road, manure spreader in tow, with a farmer outside the cab talking on his cell phone.

An alert person probably would have deducted that the large pile of brown stuff oozing across the highway was something other than dirt or mud.

An alert person would have at least hit the brakes.

Yeah, not me.

I proceeded to careen through the biggest pile of shit you've ever seen going at least 60 miles per hour. I was going so fast that I'm pretty sure I sprayed the farmer on the side of the road with a large amount of shit splatter.

Oh. My. God.

Let me share a little known fact with you: it takes approximately 1.8 seconds to realize you have NOT just driven through a puddle of mud when an overwhelming stench suddenly hits your nostrils. It takes another 2 seconds to realize, in horror, that the liquid you're smearing back and forth with your windshield wipers is actually liquid manure.

Not a good day.

Being the sensible person that I am, I tried not to panic. New Glarus was only about four miles away, I'd stop and wash my car in the car wash along the highway. This was not going to be a problem.

I get to New Glarus without further incident, pull into the car wash, roll down my window, recover from the nauseous odor that immediately wafts over me, and attempt to pay for an automatic wash. The machine takes quarters, $1 or $5 bills.

I look in my wallet. I have one $20 bill. Frick. So I get out of my shit-covered car, stumble over to the changer and think, okay, I don't care, I'm just going to get $20 worth of quarters. Life goes on. But no, the changer only takes $1 or $5 bills. Frick.

At this point, a line-up of cars also covered in shit, but not as much as mine - because it appears they were actually alert and at least hit their brakes - has formed behind me. With no choice, I just drive through the empty car wash bay and head to the next-door Culvers to break my $20 so I can come back and wash my car. At this point, it's also about 1 p.m. and I haven't had lunch, so I figure I'll just go through the drive-thru and order a burger.

Not a good idea.

I realize this after I pull up to the window and watch the Culver employee's face recoil in horror and plug her nose with two fingers after she opens her sliding glass window to take my money. I apologize profusely. She gives me a number and tells me to park in the waiting area, next to the other customers. I pull into the parking area. One by one, all of the cars next to me roll up their windows, all the while looking at me like I'm the biggest loser on the face of the earth. Finally, the guy comes out with my burger, hands it to me through the window and says "Dude, what happened to your car?"

I smile politely, throw it in reverse, and speed the 100 yards back to the car wash. Luckily, by this time, the line-up of cars has mostly made it through the car wash (well except for the poor guy who was towing a white pop-up camper behind his pickup - he's still trying to spray the shit off his camper in the self-service bay). I stuff my $5 in the machine, drive into the car wash bay slowly, put it in park and breathe a sigh of relief.

I am going to eat my burger and get this shit off my car.

As I'm unwrapping my Single Swiss Butter Burger with ketchup, mustard and pickles, the automatic car wash finally roars to life. At this point, I have to ask you to imagine the worst hotel shower you've ever been in, where the water pressure is barely strong enough to get the shampoo out of your hair. Yeah, this is that kind of car wash. Three minutes later, the "car wash" is over and I drive out.

My car is still covered in shit. Frick.

Thirty minutes later, I'm back in my home Village of Oregon, where I know the super duper mother of all automatic car washes exists. I pay another $8 (this time on a credit card - hallelujah for technology), sit through another car wash (this one even has an automatic dryer), and emerge with a clean car. No shit in sight. Thank God almighty.

So that was my day. If you take nothing else from this story of woe, it should be this: when you see a tractor and manure spreader on the side of the road and a farmer standing outside talking on a cell phone, it's fairly likely you should at least hit your brakes. Now you know what happens if you don't.

Stay alert, kids.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Cheese Festival Announcement

Being June Dairy Month and all, my thoughts are naturally on cheese. Well okay, my thoughts are always on cheese. But this week, I've been concentrating on setting up the Second Annual Wisconsin Original Cheese Festival, coming up in November.

Yeah, I know what you're thinking: November is five months away. But I can't help it. I'm super excited and have to share my news.

So as you may recall last year, 700 tickets were sold out in just three weeks to a crazed crowd of cheese enthusiasts and dairy buyers from around the country. Thanks to all of you and the support you showed for the event, I've decided to expand the festival to a three-day hoopla this year. So boys and girls, prepare to put these dates on your calendar now:

November 5, 6, 7 - at the Monona Terrace in downtown Madison. Whoo-hoo! Cue the cymbals.

This year, more than 1,200 tickets will be available to a wide array of events, including two different creamery and dairy farm tours, seven private cheesemaker dinners, eight tasting seminars, an evening Meet the Cheesemaker Gala with 35 cheesemakers, and a new Sunday Artisan Marketplace with 60 vendors.

Here are the details:

Friday Tours: Choose between:

A) Take a behind-the-scenes morning cheesemaking tour of Chalet Cheese Cooperative, enjoy lunch at the legendary Baumgartner's Cheese Store & Tavern in downtown Monroe, and then embark on an afternoon tour of the award-winning Emmi-Roth Kase cheese plant. You'll end with an amazing Fondue Tasting in Roth Kase's culinary center. Start your diet now to prepare for this tour. Limited to 20 people. Tickets: $55.

B) Visit Sassy Cow Creamery, a farmstead dairy plant near Columbus and enjoy a personal behind-the-scenes tour of this milk bottling and cheese plant. Taste cheese curds warm and squeaky, right out of the vat. Enjoy a farmhouse lunch and outdoor tour of the Baerwolf Dairy Farm, with an afternoon pasture walk and up close and personal visit with a herd of dairy cows christened with names like Marlie & Blossom. Limited to 15 people. Tickets: $55.

Friday Dine Around: Experience a culinary sensation at one of seven participating Madison Originals restaurants. Each chef will partner with a Wisconsin cheesemaker and host a one-of-a-kind three-course dinner. You’ll join the featured cheesemaker at a private table for 12. Tickets: $75.

Saturday Morning Farmer's Market: Join a small group of 4-5 people for a personalized walking tour of the nation's largest producer-driven Farmer's Market with personal introductions to more than six cheesemakers. Lunch at Fromagination included. Tickets: $35.

Saturday Afternoon Seminars: Choose from a stunning line-up of eight seminars. Enjoy wine, beer, rum, chocolate & cheese pairings. Learn the art of building the perfect cheese plate. Discover a new era of blue cheeses. Meet the women who are making some of the best farmstead cheeses today, and introduce yourself to the next generation of Wisconsin cheesemakers. You’ll be a cheese geek by the end of the day. All seminars including cheese tastings. Tickets range from $25 - $40 per seminar.

Saturday Night Meet the Cheesemaker Gala
Reception: This is the highlight of the whole weekend. You'll shake hands and talk shop with 35 Wisconsin rock star cheesemakers and sample 150 original cheeses. This event will again be limited to 300 tickets to allow all attendees 1:1 time with cheesemakers. Tickets: $28.

Sunday Artisan Marketplace: New this year! We'll showcase 60 of the state’s finest artisan cheesemakers, gourmet and specialty food companies, and artists in a farmer’s market setting. All attendees will receive a free insulated cooler bag to keep your cheese purchases cold on the way home. Tickets: $12.

All events will require advance tickets, to go on sale in September. Because this festival is sponsored by Wisconsin Cheese Originals, tickets will go on sale to members of Wisconsin Cheese Originals one week before the event, with remaining tickets on sale to the public afterward. Fear not: if you want advance tickets, just join. Membership to Wisconsin Cheese Originals is only $35 a year and you get loads of stuff - including exclusive invitations to events like a June 20 Wisconsin Cheesemaker Dinner or an August 7 Cheesemaking Tour at Hidden Springs Creamery. Check out other membership perks here.

A special shout-out to the folks who've really stepped up this year and are helping financially sponsor the festival. Kudos to: Klondike Cheese, World Import Distributors, BelGioioso Cheese, Emmi-Roth Kase USA, Fromagination, Dairy Business Innovation Center, Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, Hook’s Cheese, Planning Options, Uplands Cheese and Widmer’s Cheese Cellars. You guys rock.

I am SO looking forward to gleefully entering my annual cheese coma with all of you this November. Feel free to contact me with questions.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Kammerude Gouda

Blaser's Cheese is producing a new line of flavored Gouda cheeses, each displaying a different painting by Wisconsin's famed folk artist Lavern Kammerude.

I discovered the cheeses last week, after meeting with Stuart Hilderman, the company's regional sales manager. We met to catch up on what Blaser's is doing these days. Blaser's cheese factory is located in northern Wisconsin, west of Rice Lake in Barron County. It was originally the Comstock Cooperative Creamery and now produces muenster, brick, havarti and about 35 different flavors of natural cheeses.

The newest addition to its lineup are Kammerude Gouda cheeses, made from whole cow's milk. Sold in 8-ounce round mini wheels, sliced from Longhorns and individually packaged, the cheese is a good quality Gouda. It may not fall into the artisan cheese category, but it's pretty competitively priced and is a good everyday cheese.

The thing I really enjoy though, is the packaging. Each flavor - and there are eight - sports a different painting by Wisconsin folk artist and farmer Lavern Kammerude. The label provides a comprehensive history and description of each painting and is available to read by peeling back the front label. The Fennel Gouda, for example, depicts Kammerude's "County Fair" painting.

A little history: Lavern Kammerude, the oldest of Pete and Mary Kammerude's three children, was born in 1915 on the family farm south of Blanchardville, about 30 miles from where I grew up in Lafayette County. His father was of Norwegian and Irish descent, while his mother was of Austrian descent. As a boy working alongside his father, Lavern grew up loving the land and his rural lifestyle.

From the time Lavern was 10 years old, he, like many other farm boys, was milking, plowing, planting, harvesting and taking on the other responsibilities of the everyday chores on the farm. His schooling never went beyond the eighth grade. By his early teens, Lavern was doing a man's work on the home farm and working with neighbors for seasonal tasks like threshing, silo filling and wood cutting.

Lavern met his wife at a dance in Argyle, got married, and continued farming part-time and doing other jobs. In his mid 50s, Lavern began painting scenes of everyday life in America's rural Midwest during the first half of the 20th century. For 20 years, he painted oil-on-masonite, and his paintings today provide a valuable historical record of the bygone era.

His paintings gained local popularity with farmers and small businesses and later could be seen in corporate offices of large agriculture-related companies. A Kammerude painting even graced the walls of the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture's office. In 1986, Lavern was awarded the Wisconsin "Governor's Heritage Award" for his renderings of old-time rural life. He passed away in 1989.

I think it's wonderful that Blaser's has chosen to highlight the work of this local Wisconsin artist by featuring it on a high quality artisan cheese. To see more of Lavern's artwork, visit this website.