Cheese Makers pledge $500,000 to reconstruct Babcock Hall

Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association has pledged a gift of $500,000 to the University of Wisconsin-Madison to ignite dairy industry and public interest in renovating and expanding venerable Babcock Hall on the UW campus.

Built in 1950, Babcock Hall is home to the UW Food Science Department and is beloved by ice cream lovers nationwide for its award-winning cones.  Within the dairy industry, Babcock Hall is a crucial teaching and research hub and home to the Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research, a collection of world-class researchers whose training, trouble-shooting and product development skills have helped revitalize Wisconsin’s dairy industry.

“Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association, along with Center for Dairy Research and the Food Science Department, has identified the reconstruction and expansion of the Babcock Hall dairy plant as crucial to Wisconsin’s dairy future,” said John Umhoefer, WCMA executive director.

The UW Foundation has established a CDR/Dairy Plant Building Fund as plans for reconstruction of Babcock Hall’s dairy production facility take shape.  Construction would include an all new dairy plant to produce Babcock Hall ice cream and other dairy products, and new dairy production, research and education space for the Center for Dairy Research.

“We’re excited with this impressive first pledge of support,” said Dr. Scott Rankin, chair of the UW Food Science Department. “While a commitment to construction from the university and State of Wisconsin requires multiple steps, a strong, early show of support from industry is vital to spurring planning and approvals,” he said.

Wisconsin’s dairy industry generates $26 billion in economic activity in the state, supporting more than 100,000 jobs.  Dairy farms in Wisconsin halted flat to declining milk production in 2005 and have grown milk production 10 percent in the past five years.  Likewise, cheese production has risen to a record 2.62 billion pounds and Wisconsin retains its position as the nation’s No. 1 cheese-producing state.

“During a difficult national recession, Wisconsin dairy farms have added cows and produced more milk and cheese manufacturers have added new full-time jobs and new facilities,” Umhoefer said.  “Our Association’s  commitment to a modern teaching, research and dairy production plant at Babcock Hall underscores our long-term optimism toward dairy in Wisconsin.”

Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association is one of Wisconsin’s longest-lived industry associations.  Formed in 1891, WCMA advocates for dairy manufacturers, promotes quality cheesemaking, and supports research and education for member companies and cooperatives.