One of the lasting marks of this dairy generation will be the rebuilding of the industry’s research and training infrastructure at universities across the country.
From Penn State’s construction of a new Food Science building and pilot plants in 2006, to current plans to construct an all-new Center for Dairy Research adjacent to Babcock Hall in Madison, students, entrepreneurs and dairy industry staff are gaining unprecedented access to modern dairy pilot production, research and training.
The $105 million reconstruction of Stocking Hall at Cornell University, housing the food science department and Dairy Bar, is on schedule to be complete this fall, and commissioning of dairy equipment is already underway.
Jason Huck, general manager of dairy operations at the Cornell University dairy plant, reports that the university will add a dairy foods major and, through Cornell’s Dairy Foods Extension, three new certificate training programs are being prepared. These certificates will be offered for fluid milk processing for quality and safety, yogurt and fermented dairy foods, and cheese manufacturing.
These certificate tracks require attendees to complete multiple short courses and the certificate is offered after participants complete a written test and oral review.
The point is, new facilities reinvigorate education and training.
South Dakota State University’s new $9 million cheese and whey plant on campus, funded mainly by dairy manufacturers and dairy suppliers, offers students training in a facility that mirrors modern dairy plants. Prof. Lloyd Metzger, the Alfred Chair of Dairy Products Processing & Ingredients, notes that undergraduates and students pursuing a dairy manufacturing major at SDSU, train on the equipment and develop dairy foods and ingredients in the new facility.
In addition, Metzger said, dairy manufacturers are using the SDSU facility for staff training and through the Institute for Dairy Ingredient Processing, can rent equipment in the plant for product research and development.
Now the University of Wisconsin-River Falls joins the list of dairy pilot plants retooling for the next generation.
The Board of Directors of the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association was pleased to announce last week that WCMA will join with River Falls to lead a $3 million fund-raising campaign to revitalize the dairy plant and store on campus.
The WCMA Board pledged $100,000 to kick off this fund-raising campaign. And it’s worth noting that the Board also voted to join the fund-raising campaign for SDSU, pledging $50,000 to the new cheese plant in Brookings, SD.
At UW-River Falls, cheese production will move to a larger (formerly food) processing room and adjacent space will be renovated for whey production and raw milk processing. The former cheesemaking room will be converted to an ice cream and fluid milk processing area. This redesign will happen within the existing walls of the agriculture building, so the $3 million fund-raising campaign will focus on procuring and installing all-new dairy processing equipment and piping.
The University’s dairy retail store will also move adjacent to the new cheesemaking space, with viewing windows for the public.
Consider this column fair notice that the dairy industry in the Upper Midwest will be asked to consider investing cash or donated equipment to the UW River Falls renovation. This modest campaign will impact the hundreds of River Falls students who use the dairy facility for classes, the food processing students who make cheese, ice cream and fluid milk in the plant every day and dairy manufacturers in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and South Dakota who send their staff to the pasteurization short course and cheesemaking short course in River Falls each year.
Like the dairy staff at other universities, Michelle Farner, dairy plant manager at UW-River Falls, anticipates that the new facility will spur new education and industry training opportunities.
Prices rise and fall, Farm Bills come and go, and when this dairy generation looks back on its greatest accomplishments, they will remember the new dairy plants they helped build and the new training opportunities that opened up on campuses across the nation for the dairy processors of the future. 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
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