“Big Cheese” on UWRF Campus

With one slice, then another and another, Sam Galgowski cut a large block of cheddar cheese at the bottom of a metal vat into smaller chunks. 

Galgowski – cheesemaker at the Wuethrich Family/Grassland Dairy Center of Excellence at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls – then lifted individual pieces of cheddar and packed them into round plastic containers before flipping the containers over so the cheese inside would drain and compact.

“Hey, it worked. We have some cheddar cheese here,” Galgowski said. “We’re going to have some rounds of cheese.”

The cheese is the first produced at the plant that has been a decade in the making and holds the aspirations of state of Wisconsin and dairy industry officials as a site to not only produce cheese and ice cream but to train UW-River Falls students and dairy industry employees to work in a modern dairy setting. The plant also will serve as a test site, a place to experiment with developing different varieties of cheese and ice cream. 

“There are a lot of steps, a lot of different factors to keep track of to make sure everything is working as it should,” Rueben Nilsson, plant manager said in between checking two different monitoring screens. “There are a lot of different pieces of equipment that need to work together for this to work, and we’re making sure that they’re all talking to each other the way they’re supposed to.”

Tuesday’s successful cheesemaking effort marks a significant milestone to get the much-anticipated dairy pilot plant up and running. Another will be ice cream production. Nilsson hopes to begin making ice cream in the plant soon. Those products will be sold at Freddy’s Dairy Bar on campus under the brand name Falcon Creamery.