WCMA Perspectives | Contributing Columnist

One Final Push For UW-River Falls

John Umhoefer executive director of the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association

December 7, 2018


Here’s two opportunities. First, join your colleagues in the dairy industry and donate funds or your amazing equipment to the strategically-important drive to renew the teaching and training dairy plant at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.

Second, never see a plea from WCMA on this topic again.
Construction on the “bones” of the dairy plant at western Wisconsin’s dairy university is underway. The plant will double in size, expanding to 6,000 square feet, and upgrades to electrical and HVAC have begun.

The University has been teaching and training students in the dairy plant since 1980, and this much-needed expansion and renovation will bring industry-level equipment, controls and software into this learning environment. A new Food Science and Technology major will build student participation.

And industry trains at UW-River Falls. The University will continue its HACCP Workshop in January, Pasteurization Short Course in February and August and, given a completed renovation, will host its September 2019 Cheesemakers Short Course in an all-new facility.

Last June, Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association and the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences at River Falls signed a joint memorandum to design and execute additional industry trainings at the university and promote these opportunities nationwide.

Generous industry giving to date has been targeted to equipping and piping the all-new production facility. It may be no surprise to dairy processors that budget estimates for the renovation and for equipment purchase and installation are now projected to be exceeded, and one more financial push is needed to make this project a success.

Direct donations of equipment and technology can solve the financial shortfall. Michelle Farner, dairy plant manager and faculty associate at UW River Falls, notes that gifts of raw and pasteurized product tanks, process valves and process piping would particularly relieve budget pressure.

Several suppliers are already heroes in this campaign including major gifts from Custom Fabricating & Repair, Foss North America, Complete Filtration and Resources, GEA, Ampco Pumps and Loos Machine. In addition, Drying Technology, Kerry and AGC Heat
Transfer have supplied important equipment.

Cash donations have also been strong, but more is needed. Here’s a who’s who of generous donors, with the top 13 giving more than $100,000 each to form an ongoing Dairy Plant Advisory Committee: Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association
Grassland Dairy Products, Inc.
Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery
Foremost Farms USA
Mullins Cheese, Inc.
Welcome Dairy
Hilmar Cheese
Milk Specialties Global
Saputo Cheese USA
AgriBank/Compeer Financial
Sargento Foods Inc.

Of course, more donations at this or any level are welcome, and payments can be made in calendar year 2018 and 2019. At this
Advisory Committee level, organizations benefit from priority access to River Falls food science graduates, can access the dairy plant for product development at a reduced rate, and gain priority access to dairy short courses and workshops.

Nasonville Dairy, Kwik-Trip and Prairie Farms Dairy achieved the next tier of giving described as Dairy Plant Patrons.

At the Dairy Plant Benefactor level, thanks go to: Klondike Cheese, Central Wisconsin Cheesemakers and Buttermakers Association, Nelson-Jameson Inc., Organic Valley, Sartori, Great Lakes Cheese and LaGrander’s Hillside Dairy.

Dairy Plant Supporters, the final named level, include: Chr. Hansen, Lynn Dairy Inc., Dairy Connection Inc., Bill Boehm, Bremer Bank, Henning’s Cheese, Bletsoe’s Cheese, Dairy Farmers of America, Eau Galle Cheese and Schuman Cheese/Lake Country Dairy.

It’s the season of giving, so this writer will send in a UW-River Falls Dairy Plant Pledge Form to join the Dairy Plant Supporter Level, and other individuals and organizations across the nation that care about training the next generation of dairy leaders are urged to do the same.

Visit www.uwrf.edu/CAFES/DairyPilotPlantRenovation.cfm for information and a link to that Pledge Form. Let’s take this project fund drive over the finish line this holiday season.

Michelle Farner can be contacted at michelle.farner@uwrf.edu.




John Umhoefer

John Umhoefer has served as executive director of the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association since 1992. You can phone John at (608) 286-1001 or e-mail John Umhoefer at jumhoefer@wischeesemakers.org

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