Recent Fromagination Cheesemonger Vivien Rendleman – who asked a lot questions in the milking parlor – wrote our fifth installment:
The last stop on our incredible tour organized by the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board was Kellercrest Farm in Mt. Horeb. It seemed fitting to end our day with one of the many Wisconsin families responsible for producing the high-quality milk necessary for making the local cheeses we love. The farm, which has over 300 cows on about 400 acres, has been in the family since the 1960s. Today, brothers Tim and Mark Keller, alongside Tim’s wife Sandy, operate the farm that their parents began. Not only did we meet Tim, Mark, and Sandy Keller, but we also were able to meet Tim and Sandy’s children, who have shown the family’s Holsteins since they were children, as well as the family dogs.
This is all to say that Wisconsin has been able to maintain the efficiency of its milk industry – the Kellers have one of the highest producing herds in the state – while keeping much of production within family businesses. What this means for consumers is not only delicious milk to drink or eat as cheese, but also the comfort that their dairy farmers care about their cows, their farms, and their communities. The Kellers, for instance, have been very active in preventing soil erosion on their family farm. Although the dairy industry can often be maligned for causing soil degradation, Mark and Tim Keller explained their efforts in a way that made a lot of sense. To them, their farm’s land was valuable both for its importance to both their family and their business. Maintaining this land – keeping it from eroding, for instance – is key to maintaining the Kellercrest Dairy operation.
Although we were sad the day was over, the Fromagination cheesemongers left the Kellers with a greater understanding of how the cheeses we carry get to our shop. Often, we behind the counter get a lot of the credit for getting delicious artisan products onto your cheese plates, but we would be unable to do that without the effort of local producers such as Andy Hatch, Tony Hook, and the Kellers.