Battle of the Cheeses – Episode 814: America’s Heartland

Battle of the Cheeses – Episode 814: America’s Heartland

America’s Heartland is made
possible by: The United Soybean Board whose “Common
Ground” program creates conversations to help
consumers get the facts about farming and food. There’s more at: The American Farm Bureau
Foundation for Agriculture. Dedicated to building
greater awareness and understanding of agriculture
through education and engagement. More information at: Farm Credit – financing
agriculture and rural America since 1916. Farm Credit is cooperatively
owned by America’s farmers and ranchers. Learn more at The Fund for Agriculture
Education – A fund created by KVIE to support America’s
Heartland programming. Contributors include the
following – ♪ They jockey for position
to get the best photo… Everybody’s cheering and
everybody’s happy .. But it’s not celebrities on the
red carpet they are after. And this isn’t Hollywood. (Applause) This is
Madison, Wisconsin. So they are taking photos
of…what else…cheese. (Sounds of flashbulbs) Cheese is serious business
here in Wisconsin. It’s why the World Cheese
Competition attracts people from around the globe
here every year. But the battle for dairy
supremacy isn’t just going on here in this Madison
Convention Center. Two states battle
for top honors… Who makes the most cheese,
who makes the most milk Who has the happier cows? Oh, Wisconsin. America’s Dairy land,
of course. I would have to side
with California. (laughter) California and Wisconsin
slug it out trying to reign supreme in the
milk and cheese arena. I’m Jason Shoultz, still
ahead on a special edition of America’s Heartland, It’s the Midwest
versus the West Coast.. In a battle royale with cheese.   The competition has been
tougher and tougher every year. Only the finalists are left. The remaining cheese makers
from around the world Who are looking to be crowned
best cheese.. in the world. And the next thing
we’re going to do, we’re looking at the texture. So a little bit of bending
and looking at what the texture is like. We probably have to put
this in our mouth to see, you know just how . . you can see how that snaps. We are looking for, firstly for appearance
to see is any damage. Some cracks.>>or some unusual mold. Some unusual color.>>or yeast or mites. The flavor of the milk
should come through. It should have
fresh milk flavor. And the flavor should
be very persistent. A tiny bit salty, but
well balanced overall. If you are one of those
folks who just chomps into string cheese…>>Probably one of the main
problems with this cheese,>>it might be a
little bit chewy. Who doesn’t delicately peel
back the strands to savor the creamy goodness, then you might want to stay
away from Madison, Wisconsin in early March. Probably one of
the best flavors. A little bit too much salt. And definitely keep your
distance from Robert Aschebrock. I’m Chief Judge for
the world contest. Robert, and all of the other
judges here take their cheese seriously.   Quite seriously.   The cheese sampled here has
been flown in from across the US and around the world
to vie for the title of world cheese champion. So the cheese that comes
to top on this is really a winner. I mean, to make it that
far with that many people looking at it, it has to be
a very fine quality product. And we take a lot
of pride in that. That when that cheese
is a grand champion, it IS a grand champion. This year all 2500 cheeses have been entered into
this prestigious contest representing 24 nations
and 30 states. While there is certainly
a global presence here, it’s worth noting that the
US beats every other country when it comes to
dairy production. Nobody makes more
cheese than us. And two states that lead the way Wisconsin.. and California. We’ll get back to the
competition in a moment. First – let’s get
to the states. ♪   This is Fiscalini Farms, located just south
of Sacramento, California. and this is John Fiscalini.>>My grandfather moved here in
1912 and started dairying I think in 1914, so we’ve been,
um, actual farm for 100 years and a dairy farm for 98 years. He operates a typical-sized
dairy in the Golden State. Big dairy barns.
fifteen-hundred cows. Lots of milk. Like 14-thousand
gallons a day. It was probably back in
the I don’t know 1970’s, 1980’s where the California
dairy scenario changed from, the average dairy size being
smaller than a couple of hundred to larger than four
or five hundred. A large deal was California
had a lot of dairies in Chino in the
Los Angeles area, and as that city exploded in
population you had a whole lot of dairy farmers who
maybe had a two or three hundred cow dairy but all of
a sudden were selling their property for real
estate prices. Whether intentional or not, but we ended up with a huge
amount of dairy farmers in California with
a great deal of cash, that could go in and build a
thousand-cow dairy, state of the art
facility where their contemporaries and what
they did prior to that was milking only
a few hundred cows. California’s Central and
South Valleys are home to large scale dairies
like Fiscalini Farms and some are even much bigger. The state’s dairy farmers
focused on efficiency like a laser beam. Getting more milk out of the cow through breeding and diet. This isn’t the idyllic
image of dairy farms. But John says, that’s ok. I think the large dairies
got blamed for changing the lifestyle, changing you know
what a farmer was, but in the long haul it
seems to be the most efficient way to produce
milk and from what most people would,
would, would say, the larger dairies have more
money, have more employees, therefore they have a
better quality milk. After the milk leaves the
cows here most of it ends up going to a processor to be
made into dairy products like ice cream. And some of the milk
doesn’t travel far at all. ♪ ♪   Mariano Gonzalez
is the cheese maker at Fiscalini Cheese. He’s from Paraguay. This morning he is making
an old-world style cheddar. Every day we come in
with the mentality of making a superb cheese. We starting with the
perfect cheese in our mind. And then from there,
basically what we do is guide the bacteria and the
process of fermentation. We give them the right
environment to grow and develop acid and texture. Fiscalini’s cheddar cheese
actually won an award for the world’s best
extra mature cheddar in 2007 in London. When you talk about using
fresh milk for cheese, this is about as
fresh as you can get.>>Oh yeah. There’s probably no more
than hour and a half and the first cow got milked in my
tank by the time that we bring the milk in and
start making the cheese. You know we can actually
trace our roots back to dairy farming in Switzerland
back to 1705 so three hundred years of, of dairy
farming and they had to be cheese makers in Switzerland
because I visited where they lived and if you had dairy
cows that high up in the Alps in the winter, you
either threw the milk away or you made it into
something that would last long enough that you
could sell it later on. And I know my ancestors
were Swiss so they were pretty tight. So they didn’t
throw it away. So undoubtedly they made
cheese in the winter and then carried it down the,
uh, the mountain and sold it in the Spring. Making award-winning artisan
cheese requires lots of time and attention to detail. Mariano showed me the aging
room where the cheese wheels are covered in mold! And what does the
mold do to the cheese? It protects the cheese
really for not to lose so much uh moisture
in this case. In other cases the mold give
flavor to the cheese and different things, The
important here is to develop all the mold on the surface
of the cheese so that underneath the cloth, the
cheese can develop the rind. Some people might
say, wait a minute, mold on cheese that doesn’t
make sense to me but for you, for cheese maker this
is exactly what you want? Oh absolutely. It’s a legacy if you
will but, you know, you want to pass the legacy
down to the next generation and the following
generations and you want to keep everything intact and,
and continue to grow on it and build it. The artisan cheese helps
with John’s bottom line, but he says he is
pretty much maxed out when it comes to efficiency. The price to feed his
animals and fuel his farm keeps going up, much faster
than what he gets for his milk. The price of milk paid to
farmers here is set by the state of California. Our profit level has gone
down to the point where we’ve lost money for a
number of years and you have to borrow against land
to stay in business. When you’ve been in
business, your my age, 60 plus years and you’ve
been in business your whole life and supported your
family and you supported your employees. And ah you find out that you
either have to sell your facility or you are going
to go through bankruptcy, whatever. I’m sure that has got to be
an extremely frightening situation. I don’t know how I would
handle that myself. As I’m looking at where
I am in this economy, I realize that everyday
that I am losing money I’m getting little bit
closer to that. I hope to hang on. I hope to be able to have my
son and my grandson continue the legacy here. But it’s getting very grim. While the picture remains
bleak for many dairy farmers, some California
dairy farms are finding success by capitalizing on
new demand for organic milk and artisan cheese.   On a quiet morning just
north of San Francisco… Fresh milk is being
unloaded… that will soon get turned
into artisan cheese. For the past two years
they’ve been churning out the cheese at
Nicasio Valley Cheese Company in Marin County. Well, we’ve been in the
cheese business now for about two and a half years. Our roots are Swiss Italian
and our cheeses are all based on recipes from a
cheese maker who comes from the same village in
Switzerland that our grandfather immigrated
from over 100 years ago. The Lafranchi brothers are
taking advantage of the growing demand for farmstead
organic cheeses and their location is just right for
a Renaissance of sorts. Our dairy operation has been
in the family since 1919. But the dairies of West
Marin were the original San Francisco milk pail
for many years the dairy capital
of California. And those dairies were
all founded and succeeded because of their ability
to sustain agriculture. They had long
growing seasons. They had a unique terror
that produced high quality forage that in turn
produced high quality milk, which allowed them to make
cheeses and butters that were world renowned. But as those larger dairies
took hold in California and were able to increase
their efficiency, this region lost its edge. You couldn’t milk
the number of cows that you can in the valley. The environment just
won’t support that. And they also had to use
similar feeds a good part of the year that they had to
pay for the trucking to come up here and the cost
just didn’t pencil out. So why is Lafranchi positive
about the future for this dairy region? 3 things: an increasing
demand for organic milk, growing interest in artisan
cheese and changes in regulations meaning cows
must spend several months each year grazing on pasture
ground in order to be certified organic. The 420 cows here
spend the rainy months on the pasture grounds when
the grass is green. During dry months they are
in cow barns eating organic feed.   Our area has become a
unique cheese making region. 15 years ago there were
three cheese makers in the North Bay,
today there’s 29. So we are very proud to be
a part of that and believe that collectively we are
establishing a region that hopefully will someday be
known worldwide as one of the fine cheese
regions of the world. I think there is an appetite
and a growing appreciation for artisan cheese
throughout this country that is still very early
in its beginning. And I look forward to where
we are 10 years from now as far as artisan cheese
consumption in this country because it has no
where to go but up. About 10 to 15 percent
of their milk ends up as artisan cheese, the rest gets sold to a
distributor for milk. Because it’s organic, the
price is not set by the state of California and
hasn’t been subjected to the ups and downs of
conventional milk prices paid to farmers. Twenty-six, the
category is Havarti.   Back at the cheese
competition in Madison the judges are
carefully sniffing, sampling and deciding
which cheeses will make it to the finals. There for such job you need
to be fully concentrated, Fully concentrated.>>Yes. No thinking about
anything else, just, just about cheese. The competition has been
tougher and tougher every year. And the reason is the
quality of the milk has improved immensely
in the United States. From the day I started in
the cheese factory making cheese, we had
maybe a small test or two that we did on the milk
before we use it. Now that milk is tested in
so many ways and that has affected the quality
of the product. The finished product. You start out with
a good raw material, you wind up with good
finished material. It’s a sold out crowd… 400 people waiting anxiously
to see the winners and sample some delicious cheese
from around the world. To me it’s like the perfect
combination of an event, where you get to be in
the room where the world champion is named. And at the same time
you’re eating some, some amazing cheeses from
countries that you would never have the opportunity
to eat otherwise. They have judges from
all over the world. And they have, they have an
American with somebody else from a different country. So they, they share
their knowledge in, in aromas and in salt levels
and all their well taste buds. And then if they can
agree on something, well, on a cheese, you know
it’s, it’s tremendous. Not far away from the hot
competition inside that Madison,
Wisconsin ballroom… on a snowy and cold countryside
northeast of Madison sits the Crave Brothers dairy. The milk is flowing here. The Crave brothers will
milk a thousand cows today. The family purchased this
dairy farm in 1980 and in 2002 starting making
their own farmstead cheeses We were just looking at how to
grow the family business. How to get off the
commodity treadmill, however you want
to look at it. But just add more value to
our product that we produced a raw product which
was raw milk that we produced on our farm. ♪ They make fresh mozzarella
along with European style cheeses that have
won several awards. This is a real reflection of
what we do at Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese. Where just a few hours ago
these curds were milked at our farm just 320 feet
across the road where the milk comes over, it is
pasteurized and then we make our farm fresh
cheese out of it. Specialty cheeses have
always been a part of Wisconsin’s dairy profile,
but like dairy farmers in California, they are taking
advantage of a growing interest in artisan cheeses
fresh from the farm. That’s on display at Sassy
Cow Creamery in Columbus, Wisconsin. The Baerwolf brothers
are meeting the demand for organic
and non-organic milk. There are 200 cows on
the organic side of this operation and 400
on the non-organic. Their milk ends up getting
sold as milk, cream, cheese and ice cream! In eastern Wisconsin about a
mile from Lake Michigan is Saxon Creamery. Where you’ll find artisan
raw unpasteurized cheeses made from pasture-fed cows. Our dairy is
based on pasture and pasture and dairy cows just fit together
like a glove and a hand, or a baby with candy. Cows are bovines and they
thrive in an environment where they’re outside and
they’re eating forages. We make four cheeses on
our, with our cows milk. And what we’ve done is,
the food consumers always changing. And right now there’s quite
a movement to eat high quality food,
knowing the story of where the food comes from and also the raw aspect
of product. For this dairy family,
producing cheese was a way to add value
to their milk which normally would
be sold as a commodity. Saxon’s cheeses
are raw cheeses with a European-influenced
style. Is it profitable? It certainly is. It’s a very, very good
system agronomically and environmentally and it
makes sense financially. Just under a quarter of
Wisconsin’s dairies uses pasture grazing to
feed their cows. So there are certainly
lots of similarities. California cows look a
lot like Wisconsin cows. Their cheese vats
look the same. The milk flows just as well
in Wisconsin as it does in California. So how do the
states stack up? When it comes to milk
California wins. The Golden State
produces more milk, almost a quarter of
the US milk supply! But Wisconsin
makes more cheese. And specialty cheese is
really taking off in Wisconsin. Almost half of the specialty
cheese made in the US comes from America’s Dairyland. We really specialize here
in Wisconsin on making specialty cheeses, artisan cheeses and
artisan dairy products that really reflect
our heritage here and our history of what we have done
in Wisconsin for years and years is making really great
dairy products of our farm fresh milk. Wisconsin certainly
has the history! The state was already
becoming known for its dairy farming in the late 1800’s. And Wisconsin makes
more cheese than Italy, Egypt or the Netherlands! We have the tradition,
we have the history. We have the expertise. We have master cheese makers
here in Wisconsin. Just how much bigger are
California dairy farms? Think about this: In both states there are more
than a million cows in Wisconsin those cows are
spread across 12-thousand farms. In California only
1600 dairy farms. And the number one type of
cheese produced in both states? Mozzarella. If you were looking for
one thing that stepped up the battle between
California and Wisconsin dairies, look no further
than these..   “Yawn…”
“Morning” California’s “happy cow”
dairy campaign. “So what
do you think then, get an early start on that
alfalfa on the back forty?” “What’s the hurry,
“Hit the snooze.”   Great milk
comes from happy cows, happy cows come
from California. The idea that California’s
cheese tastes better because of California’s nice
climate… didn’t sit well with
Wisconsin’s dairy farmers! It’s interesting
[laughs]. Yeah, that’s all
I’ll say about that. [both laugh] “Did ya here?” “Here what?” “Sadie made a
break for it!” “No way!” “She’s heading to
California” “Hey, Sadie’s going to
California!” Yeah well there was that one
of the cow walking in a snow storm and they’re going to California and the other cows are
looking at her and you see her off
in the distance, she’s about a hundred yards
away and they said how long has
she been gone? “Two days ago”.   I think our cows
are happier here. really a cow enjoys cool
weather and we obviously have cooler weather
here in Wisconsin. We do have the
green pastures. The rolling hills and
really good limestone well water which makes
really good cow feed. (rumbling) “Here we go”
“Foot massage..” “Ahhh”
“Eeeeee” California’s dairy producers
point out that the commercials weren’t intended
to cast Wisconsin’s cows in a bad light. “Oh” “Yeah those never last
long enough” That they are just
having a little fun in California’s attempt to sell
more dairy products! “I love it here
no snow on the grass” “Huh” “Cause I hate big snow drifts,
don’t ya know”   “Ok, then see ya” “Bye, Bye”
“What’s snow?” “I don’t know” “She’s been tipped
one time, too many” Yeah, yeah, they were poking fun at Wisconsin, uh, I hope it was in good nature and I hope they took that in
good nature. But they, they were
cute commercials. While there are differences
in taste, varieties, type of cheese and even
the farms themselves, a healthy competition
ultimately helps, not hurts, both states. I think it’s great. I think it’s
absolutely great. So, Wisconsin was the
top-dog in the amount of milk that we
were producing and when California
came on board and California really
brought home the quantity it brought Wisconsin
back a second and said, “Wait a minute we need
to focus on our quality.” And it’s been outstanding
for the state. Oh for sure. There’s room for
Wisconsin and California. You know, no two cheese
makers are ever going to make the same cheese. And the think the cheeses
are both very complimentary. Really, its a, it’s a
commitment to try to, to raise the level of, of
cheese making and cheese consuming in the
United States. So there may be a
little bit of, of, of fun poked at one
another but uh, you know, there there’s no uh,
animosity at all between California farmers and
Wisconsin farmers that I’m aware of. In fact, when California’s
John Fiscalini was recently honored with a
national dairy award, guess who nominated him? Wisconsin’s Crave Brothers. I really think, honestly
speaking, we are a team, it doesn’t matter in which
state we are both my friends in Wisconsin and my friends
here in California, we all trying to make cheese
and make the best cheese that is possible for
the American consumer. So, really we make better
cheese than they do but you know
(laughs) Ok, so we can all get along
but really who makes
the better cheese? Well, back at the cheese
championship in Madison the top
prize goes to… It is the Vermeer made by… Team Steenderen
Friesland Campina, Wolvega, Netherlands   …The Netherlands! ♪ Well if two dueling
dairy states can agree on
anything… it’s getting the
world title back on US soil next time. That’s going to do it for this
special edition of America’s Heartlands. Thanks for joining us,
you can always find us online at or stay in touch with us through many of your favorite
social media sites as well. We’ll see you next time right here
at America’s Heartland. You can purchase a DVD
or Blu Ray copy of this program. Here’s the cost: To order,
just visit us online or call 888-814-3923.     ♪ You can see it in the eyes
  of every woman and man ♪   ♪ in America’s Heartland
  living close to the land. ♪   ♪ There’s a love
  for the country ♪   ♪ and a pride in the brand ♪   ♪ in America’s Heartland
  living close, ♪   ♪close to the land.♪ America’s Heartland is made
possible by: The United Soybean Board whose “Common
Ground” program creates conversations to help
consumers get the facts about farming and food. There’s more at: The American Farm Bureau
Foundation for Agriculture. Dedicated to building
greater awareness and understanding of agriculture
through education and engagement. More information at: Farm Credit – financing
agriculture and rural America since 1916. Farm Credit is cooperatively
owned by America’s farmers and ranchers. Learn more at The Fund for Agriculture
Education – A fund created by KVIE to support America’s
Heartland programming. Contributors include the
following – ♪  

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