2811 Agriculture Drive
PO Box 8911
Madison, WI 53706
Wisconsin is a natural home for dairy artisans. The Wisconsin Dairy Artisan Network (WDAN) is a network of farmstead and artisan dairy producers from around the state of Wisconsin. It was borne in 1999 out of a farmstead dairy conference that focused on value-added processing of milk on the farm. Interest was so unexpectedly strong and high that organizers began to target this group for special attention. Hence the creation of WDAN, whose mission is to assist current and future Wisconsin dairy food artisans through education, promotion of the craft, and regulatory advocacy. There are currently almost 30 artisans in the network.
The bulk of WDAN members produce cheeses from cow, goat and sheep milkSwiss, cheddar, chevre, mozzarella, Munster, Colby, and more. Other members produce bottled milk, yogurt and ice cream. Some WDAN producers are certified organic, while others are not. But each member either produces their own milk or can tell you where their milk came from and how the animals were treated.
What makes a dairy artisan? According to WDAN:
- A dairy artisan makes cheese or other dairy products using goat, cow or sheep milk, possibly but not necessarily from their own farmstead; either way, the artisan is in close contact with the milk source, quality, and animal treatment.
- Artisan foods capture the flavor of the environment where they were produced.
- Artisan foods are often handmade and usually made using specialty techniques in small batches.
- Artisan captures the uniqueness and special identity of each product as well as the artisan who makes it.
You can learn more about cheese in Wisconsin at the Wisconsin Dairy Artisan Network website.
What makes WDAN special?
From the rolling pastures of the unglaciated Uplands region of southwestern Wisconsin to the rocky, forested Northwoods along the shores of Lake Superior, a growing number of highly skilled Wisconsin Dairy Artisans are creating the finest quality artisan and farmstead dairy products. These talented people are leading a resurgence of artisan products, reintroducing recipes that many believed were lost in the United States and creating their own unique products and processes. Wisconsin cheesemakers and dairy producers meet the highest training standards for obtaining their cheese making license, as Wisconsin is the only state with a Master Cheesemaker program.
Where do you want WDAN and Wisconsin artisan cheese production to be in the next year? 5 years? 10 years?
This is an exciting time for Wisconsins dairy community, as increased consumer demand, industry research and government funding are supporting a resurgence in artisan and farmstead dairy producers. We want the WDAN to continue to support existing and future artisan family farmers who practice nourishing artisan traditions and supply wholesome foods to their local communities.
Where can consumers get WDAN products?
In general, WDAN producers sell at farmers markets, on their farms, through food co-ops and other retail grocery outlets, and by mail order. For complete information about finding WDAN products, visit our website. For general information, you may also contact Norm Monsen at the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade & Consumer Protection Division of Agricultural Development at 608-224-5135 or by sending an email.