A Wisconsin dairy farmer interested in developing artisan goat cheeses in southwest Wisconsin is the recipient of the 2013 Beginning Cheesemaker Scholarship from Wisconsin Cheese Originals.
Jennifer Digman, owner of Krayola Sky Dairy in Cuba City, was selected by a committee of industry leaders for the $2,500 annual award. Digman is mid-way through the requirements of earning a cheesemaker's license, and is working to complete her apprenticeship hours.
Wisconsin is the only state in the nation to require cheesemakers to be licensed, an 18-month process that involves attendance at five university courses, 240 hours of apprenticeship under a licensed cheesemaker, and a written exam at the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture.
After using the scholarship money to earn her license, Digman has dreams of building an on-farm creamery to craft fresh, hand-dipped chevre, aged mixed milk artisan cheeses, and hand-washed Alpine-style cheese.
"I look forward to working side-by-side with my daughters, teaching them the Old World secrets of shepherding our animals and crafting cheeses," Digman said. "Being a female in a male-dominated dairy industry has had its hurdles, but with the help of some amazing mentors, I am blessed to understand the traditions of making great cheese."
A committee made up of industry leaders selected Digman out of a field of 11 high-qualified applicants. This marks the fourth year Wisconsin Cheese Originals has offered the $2,500 scholarship to a beginning cheesemaker. Past recipients include:
2012: Anna Landmark, a sustainable small-scale farmer near Albany. Landmark plans to craft both fresh and aged sheep's milk cheeses.
2011: Rose Boero, a dairy goat breeder in Custer. Boero makes a variety of goat's milk cheeses at Willow Creek Cheese and teaches classes in her home for amateur cheesemakers.
2010: Katie Hedrich, named the 2011 U.S. Champion Cheesemaker for her LaClare Farms Evalon, is currently building a farmstead cheese plant on the Hedrich family farm near Pipe.
Wisconsin Cheese Originals is a 200 member-based organization dedicated to growing and promoting the state's artisan cheese community by hosting seminars, cheesemaker dinners, dairy tours and the annual Wisconsin Cheese Originals Festival, scheduled for Nov. 1-2, at the Monona Terrace in Madison.