Milestone on the road to champion cheese: 10,000th dairy short course student

If you appreciate a fine Wisconsin dairy product, then it’s likely that you have enjoyed the work of a UW-Madison dairy short course student.  In fact, at the 2011 U.S. Championship Cheese contest, nearly three-fourths of the individual winners were UW-Madison dairy short course  grads—which is not so surprising, considering that  this spring the program welcomed its 10,000th student to campus: Davide Toffolon from BelGioioso Cheese Inc. in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

In 1890 the University of Wisconsin- Madison established the first Dairy Short Course in the United States. That tradition was then built upon in 1989 when the modern dairy short course was developed thanks to the work of the Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research, the food science department, the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board and professor emeritus Bill Wendorff.

“When I joined the staff in 1989, I toured the state and spoke with more than 70 dairy manufacturers.  We discussed what areas of production and manufacture they would like us to focus on for further training and education,” recalls Wendorff, who was instrumental in the revival of the dairy short course. “I found that many dairy industry members were looking for educational opportunities that would assist them in dealing with the ever changing technology.  I also found they were looking for training that would give them a competitive edge and lead to high-quality and unique products.”

Today, CDR and the food science department offer more than 22 short courses a year on the UW-Madison campus, which focus on topics from cheese technology and buttermaking to sanitation practices and dairy chemistry. The modern short courses work to meet the needs of the current industry while also preserving the mission of the original dairy short course; to maintain the knowledge and tradition of crafts such as cheesemaking and buttermaking, while providing cutting-edge research-based education to industry.

“Without CDR and their dairy short courses, I’m not so sure that our cheese industry would be what it is today,” said Bruce Workman, owner of Edelweiss Creamery in Monroe. Workman has been a Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker since 1999, has his Master certification in nine different cheeses and has won several awards in Gruyere, Swiss, Butterkase, Raclette and Havarti cheese.

“I’ve taken just about every course CDR offers; at least in regards to cheesemaking,” he says. ”They have been key in helping me to gain knowledge while also encouraging me to be creative.”