WCMA Perspectives | Contributing Columnist

Advancing Projects Honor the
Spirit of an Icon

John Umhoefer executive director of the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association

January 5, 2018


This new year brings two highly-anticipated moments in dairy research and education: leaders and donors will break ground on a new dairy plant at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, and in Madison, the flagship University of Wisconsin will sink golden shovels to mark construction of the all-new Center for Dairy Research astride Babcock Hall.

This bright future for education and research honors the legacy of Dan Carter, a cheese industry icon who passed away December 19. Dan tirelessly advocated for innovation and education, because he knew talented people are the key to growing an industry.

The WCMA Board of Directors agrees. In December, the Board initiated a second round of industry funding for the building project at UW-River Falls. The Board voted unanimously to offer a second gift of $100,000 to spur a race to the project’s budget finish line.

If you’re scoring along with us, that’s $200,000 WCMA has donated for dairy education and modern facilities at River Falls, $50,000 for the cheese plant at South Dakota State University and $500,000 our nonprofit trade association donated to the construction of the Center for Dairy Research in Madison.

River Falls
With much of its funding in hand, UW-River Falls will begin construction when classes are complete in June 2018. The fully-renovated dairy plant will take over additional existing space, reaching 6,000 square feet for student production of cheese and ice cream.

It’s a bold stroke, because while generous donations and a state of Wisconsin allotment have gathered $3.1 million, the project is estimated to cost $4.0 million with completely renovated physical plant, all new equipment, piping and automation.

River Falls is a crucial training ground for students and offers pasteurizer, cheesemaking and food safety training for dairy industry personnel. River Falls has re-instituted its Food Science & Technology major and offers a food processing technology minor.

Inspired to join WCMA in a final round of giving? Contact Julie Stucky at the UW River Falls Foundation. Julie.Stucky@UWRF.edu.

Center for Dairy Research
At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, donors and campus leaders have homed in on a schedule that will see groundbreaking in the summer of 2018. While it’s been a lengthy process from fundraising to groundbreaking, all parties have adopted the mantra of getting it right, rather than just getting it done.

Final bid documents – blueprints for a new, three-level research and training center – will be ready in mid-February and contractors will be asked to submit bids for construction in March.

Dan Carter
This boom in dairy education and research is a fitting context to honor Dan Carter, a man always focused on a better future for the cheese industry.

Dan and Jane Carter, always a team, advocated for the new Center for Dairy Research and donated generously to its construction. Dan was a graduate of UW-Madison and later Chairman of the Board of Visitors for the University’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.

I am in no better position than many to recognize and revere Dan Carter, but I am one of so many who benefitted from his kindness, his drive, his humor and his passion for a greater cheese industry. Dan encouraged my efforts from a “Welcome to WCMA” letter 25 years ago to hundreds of notes, calls and media clips across the decades.

Dan’s ideas improved the Championship Cheese Contests and his support added members to the rolls of our Association. In 2002, he earned WCMA’s highest award, Life Member.

In business, Dan proved that delicious new products, fresh ideas and great marketing could build cheese companies, and in “retirement” he immediately applied his energy to create the Dairy Business Innovation Center. The Center helped dozens of business start up and thrive, but more importantly, Dan helped these entrepreneurs discover the best version of themselves.

Cheese makers across the nation are lucky that this dynamic man and his extraordinary wife and partner chose to focus their energy and heart on bettering our industry. Dan’s legacy is more than the elevation of a craft, it’s the thousands of lives he touched and improved because he helped so many people believe in themselves and succeed.


John Umhoefer

John Umhoefer has served as executive director of the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association since 1992. You can phone John at (608) 828-4550; Fax him at (608) 828-4551; or e-mail John Umhoefer at jumhoefer@wischeesemakers.org

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