Our 125th Year!
(Sort of)

Volume 140, No. 33, Friday, February 5, 2016

The International Cheese Technology Expo in April will mark the 125th anniversary of the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association. And like our 100th anniversary celebration in 1991, we’ll raise a glass to a true milestone for this tenacious organization.

But we’ll be off by a year. Again.

The age of the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association isn’t important, but an industry that thrives on pride, on quality, on master cheesemaking ought to know its roots. History is alive in long-held relationships between processors and their buyers, between farm patrons and their plants, and in dairy manufacturing families that can trace their roots, by blood, back to the 1800s.

History is proof of performance – it lends gravitas to marketing, builds terroir for turophiles.
In 1924, Wisconsin Cheese Makers’ Association held two conventions, one in January and another in December.
The Roaring Twenties, indeed. That single act of exuberance created a disconnect between the age of the Association and its number of annual meetings.

The Association formed in March of 1893, E.L. Aderhold, Wisconsin’s Assistant Dairy and Food Commissioner, told cheese makers at the WCMA Convention in 1917. He would know – he was one of the founders. “We dug down into our pockets and dug up the money to pay for the printing and advertising … and we held our first convention shortly after that in the old Agricultural Hall at the University in Madison and it was a very enthusiastic convention.”

In 1991, WCMA held a Centennial Reception at the annual convention, then called The Cheese Industry Symposium. No one seemed to know it was the Association’s 99th year (and 100th annual meeting).

When you get old, you forget things. Or perhaps you don’t sweat the details.
In 1978, the apostrophe in Wisconsin Cheese Makers’ Association began to disappear, as Dave Crusius took over for Roland Behle as WCMA executive director. By 1980, Crusius was gone and so was the apostrophe.

For decades, the official program of the WCMA annual meeting listed WCMA Life Members, with the odd quirk that deceased Life Members were dropped from the rolls. WCMA has honored 84 Life Members since its inception in 1893. Most tragically, John S. Wuethrich, founder of the great Grassland Dairy, was offered the Life Member honor posthumously in 1948: he passed away eight days before the convention. This honor was not listed in subsequent annual programs, but will now be noted for all time.

Even the colloquialism “going to Convention” is passing into history as the Association has built its annual meeting into one of the largest Technology Expositions in the global dairy industry.

Wisconsin’s ability to look back even while it charges head-long into the future has been a strength. This duality built the Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker Program. It fueled generous donations to the new Center for Dairy Research coming to Babcock Hall. And it spurred the formation of the new Recognition Committee at WCMA.

The Recognition Committee has taken on, with gusto, WCMA’s Life Member Award, Distinguished Service Award and our new Cheese Industry Champion honor. The committee recommended Steve Stettler from Decatur Dairy in Brodhead, WI, for WCMA Life Member, and Hans Epprecht, founder of Great Lakes Cheese and George Cornell, now with Pacific Cheese, as Cheese Industry Champions.

Gary Smith, who led Kusel Equipment for 41 years before his passing in 2014, will earn the Distinguished Service Award alongside George Schwinghammer, career dairy processor and cheese equipment guru at Tetra Pak.

A new event, the Industry Recognition Breakfast, will debut April 14 at the International Cheese Technology Expo to honor these great men. We’ll raise a toast to the 125th gathering of the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association, and ignore the fact that it’s WCMA’s 124th year. JU

John Umhoefer has served as executive director of the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association since 1992. You can phone John at (608) 828-4550; Fax him at (608) 828-4551; or e-mail John Umhoefer at jumhoefer@wischeesemakers.org


Other John Umhoefer Columns

 A Dangerous New Raw Milk Bill
Wisconsin Makes Its Case Out West
 Dancing with the Devil in the Details
 Phosphorus’ Final Act
 20 Years of Change In One Bite
 The Whey Problem and California’s Solution
 The System Works - March 6, 2015
 100 Years of Success
 Thoughts for a Dairy Forum
 A Different Dairy Scene in 2015
 The Truth About Animal Care
 A Regulatory Hat Trick
 Flawed Security Program Bilks Wisconsin Dairy
 Leading Cheese Producers
 Success by the Numbers
 It’s Time for Training
 Exports Trump Farm Bill
 Wisconsin Specialty Cheese Institute’s 20-20 Vision
 Addressing Wastewater Head On
 Knowledge Opportunities Abound
 Say No to an Extreme Raw Milk Bill
 A Generation's Gift
 Government-Induced Uncertainty
 Decades Ahead on Food Safety
 Wisconsin’s Hot Winter
 A Successful Campaign for Babcock
 Ireland: Gearing Up For Growth
 Mired in Wash Water
 Less Government, More Dairy
An Interview With Jim Sartorii
The Other Solids Price Crush
 The Policy Answer Is Exports
 Rolling The Dice On Dairy Reforms
 Productive Changes In Wisconsin

 The Successful Idea Of DBIC
 Cheese Cuts Both Ways: Consolidation and Growth
 IDFA's Deep Dairy Reforms
 Wisconsin In The Spotlight
 An Overbuilt Foundation
 What the New Governor Means To Wisconsin
 No Man's Land
 Dairy & Wisconsin’s New Leadership
Wisconsin Cheese Is Investing, Expanding
 Talking Competition
 Being Big Dairy
Upper Midwest Prospects in 2010
Upper Midwest Growth: Perspectives From The Farm
Blue Skies or Bust
Pushing Back Against A Tough 2009
Support Demand, Not Price
Dairy: A Good Bet in a Bad Economy
Wisconsin's Future: Growth
Keeping Sustainability Real
Nose Dive
Dairy Dives into 2009
Consider This...
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Implement Make Allowances ASAP
Security Reforms
Spring Forward
A Week of Clarity

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