“The little guys are disappearing.”

North Hendren Cooperative Dairy, in Willard, Wisconsin, wants to survive.  But six years from its 100th birthday, the specialty cheesemaking enterprise located in Clark County between Marshfield and Eau Claire, is experiencing a great struggle.

Founded in 1923, the co-op is made up of 24 small, local dairy farmers who, in 2002, converted their operation to a private label artisan cheese endeavor focused on Blue cheese.  In 2016, North Hendren produced 2.2 million pounds of award-winning Blue and Gorgonzola cheeses in 7-pound wheels.

This 2010 Isthmus review lauded North Hendren’s cheesemaking: http://isthmus.com/food-drink/madame-fromage-black-river-gorgonzola-from-north-hendren-co-op-dairy/

But now the rug has been pulled out from under the co-op, and its cheeses, formerly sold under the Black River label,  have been replaced in the supply chain.

In January, a brokerage firm cancelled its contract with the North Hendren Cooperative Dairy and moved to source its cheese elsewhere.  The brokerage said North Hendren could no longer sell its cheeses under its former label, and left it with no business and many employees to pay.  The story is detailed in a recent podcast by Jeanne Carpenter on her Cheese Underground Radio:


Enter the discriminating Wisconsin cheese consumer – you – who can help this business survive by purchasing the North Hendren Smoked Blue, North Hendren Gorgonzola (aged minimum 90 days), and its “yellow blue,” Rumena Modra, at Fromagination…and elsewhere.

See more information below about North Hendren Cooperative Dairy, and considering purchasing your Blue cheese from them this year.


As the co-op’s cheesemaker Mike – making cheese since he was 13 – says…they just need to make it until January.

Call our shop – 608-255-2430 – for more information about North Hendren Co-op Dairy products.

Last week, the Fromagination had a visit from a group of people we see on a regular basis: Travel writers.

Fromagination owner Ken Monteleone met with a group of six travel media staff from various locations, including two from the Spanish publication Complot.  They come to see a small city with a lot of buzz…including the food culture of Madison, and the artisan cheeses of Wisconsin.

For this visit, we welcomed a guest who writes freelance travel articles for 12 major U.S. newspapers, a CBS News travel editor, a “lifestyles” publications chain, a public relations person, and the editor and creative director (with his camera) of Complot.  They sample cheese, saw the other local food products that Fromagination carries, and heard about the local food scene and the state’s dairy market.

Fromagination’s role as a cultural/food stop is frequently encouraged by staff from the Greater Madison Convention & Visitors Bureau, which wants guests in America’s Dairyland to grasp the scope and history of our cheese heritage…and current position as a leader in, well, producing fantastic cheeses.  We have guests arrive who know a lot about cheese, and other who know very little about cheese…and some who don’t even eat cheese but want to give some as a gift.

Recently, a team from Lonely Planet came to the shop, and they sent back an article for the September 2017 issue of their online magazine.  Our food culture, Madison, and Wisconsin, are well-covered by these inquisitive visitors.  We enjoy our visits with them most when they taste the selections in the shop, and say they’ll remember us the next time they eat some great cheese.

Fromagination was named an Isthmus weekly Favorite (again) for 2017!  It’s an honor to get real support from the Madison/Dane County community for our business.

Our shop was named #2 in the Specialty Food Shop category, behind Penzey’s Spices and before Asian Midway Foods.  Congratulations to both of them…but we’re the ones who carry spicy cheese, okay?

Fromagination has been named a Favorite often over our 10 years of existence.  Thank you to all of our fans/supporters…wherever you are!

You’ll find the Favorites listed in this week’s Isthmus, which includes the Annual Manual 2017-2018.

If you are like some Fromagination friends, you may cook and either watch TV or listen to the radio simultaneously.  Or maybe you just need a good cheese story for your next commute to work.  Either way, if you’re a listener who likes the podcast format, we have a new source for cheese news for you!

Cheese Underground Radio is the creation of Jeanne Carpenter, who blogs about artisan cheese, calls herself a “cheese geek,” and organizes excellent cheese events in Wisconsin.

Fromagination is now supporting this project…the dissemination of more good stories about great cheese.

“Fromagination is pleased to be a sponsor for Cheese Underground podcast. It is everything a podcast should be: Sharp, quick, and witty.  Each episode leaves you loving Wisconsin cheese more,” said Fromagination’s General Manager, Ken Monteleone.  “Jeanne brings Wisconsin charm to the airwaves with her delightful demeanor and passion for Wisconsin and cheese.  Each episode seeks to explore everything you crave about cheese …the farms, the animals, the cheesemakers and, of course, the cheese.  She’s a great storyteller.  I find myself constantly looking forward to each new episode—the time always flies by and I crave more!

To date, the podcast has six episodes on a variety of topics:

  • Sartori’s cheesemakers
  • The underground caves of Faribault
  • Red Barn Family Farms’ dairies
  • Fresh cheese curds
  • Roelli Cheese Haus’ candied Cheddar
  • Making cheese in copper kettles

They can be found at https://soundcloud.com/cheese-underground-radio

Jeanne Carpenter’s blog can be found at https://cheeseunderground.com/