Earlier this year, Master Cheesemaker Steve Stettler of Decatur Dairy was accepting first place for his curds at the World Cheese Contest. Fast forward to today, he’s beaming with pride once again as Decatur Dairy and Decatur Swiss Cheese Cooperative construct an expansion of their plant in Brodhead.
Stettler tells Mid-West Farm Report the current plant is bursting at the seams meeting current demand. The $6 million project will add a packaging, curing, and warehousing facility. But the extra space isn’t just for cheese — it’s room for the next generation. His two daughters and son-in-law will begin their cheesemaking courses this fall.
Decatur Cheese Plant, LLC is a partnership between Decatur Dairy Inc. and Decatur Swiss Cheese Company Cooperative. Stettler says the relationship between himself and the co-op has always been unique, allowing both parties — the cheesemaker and the dairy producer — to be profitable.
This expansion also acts as a security blanket for the producers, ensuring their milk has somewhere to go, Stettler explains.
“In this day and age, everybody’s concerned about product and if it’s going to have a market,” he says. “They can wake up every morning and know we’re going to pick up their product. And we’re not really growing on the farmer base, but the farmers we have, we take care of and protect them. And I think that’s what they’re looking for.”
Meanwhile, the community is also supporting the venture. Stettler thanks his producers, the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association, the Bank of Brodhead, Kraemer Brothers construction and DATCP for promoting and aiding the expansion.
“I don’t know if that says anything about me,” he jokes. “I’ve been here a long time, so they’ve watched what I’ve done over the years and it’s just worked out. I mean, I’ve gotten a lot of support and we try and do the right things. And our little store here, we sell cheese at a reasonable price and we have a good following with that.”
Stettler says he’s hoping to be operating in the new plant by Feb. 1.