Micro-Dairy Underway In Paoli

Pictured left to right: Anna Thomas Bates, Anna Landmark, Nic Mink and Danika Laine. Photo by Nicole Hansen

A historic dairy processing facility in Paoli is under renovation to become a unique agricultural experience.

Led by Nicolaas Mink and his wife Danika Laine, a group of entrepreneurs purchased the 21,000-square-foot former dairy factory on seven acres of land along the Sugar River at 6858 Paoli Road, just south of Madison.

They got approval to list the property on the State and National Register of Historic Places. Seven Acre Dairy Company anticipates opening this fall.

Mink has a background in agricultural history education, spending the first half of his career teaching history at UW-Stevens Point and UW-Superior. He later launched Sitka Salmon Shares.

“This factory evolved and changed alongside Wisconsin’s dairy industry for nearly 100 years,” Mink says. “As new technologies emerged, new product forms developed, new ideas became dominant in the
dairy industry, and the factory would get a new addition or annex. Over time, it became one of
the largest in the state.”

And now it’ll be one of the smallest at 800-square-feet, explains Mink. To start, the plant, Seven Acre Dairy Company, will purchase about 600 gallons of milk per week to produce artisanal farm-to-scoop ice cream and butter, using milk from many of the same farm families that delivered to the original factory before it was shuttered in 1980.

The property will also feature a boutique hotel; restaurant and bar; café; and retail store. The property’s seven acres will boast a fully-restored oak savanna and prairie, with hiking trails, a boat landing, and gardens.

“The idea is that the property has something for everyone, that it’s welcoming and inclusive for all,” says Laine. “We hope it becomes a community gathering space.”

When Mink and Laine sought to return part of the building to a working dairy, they only had to look down the street in Paoli to find their partners. Anna Thomas Bates and Anna Landmark, co-owners of Landmark Creamery, will lead Seven Acre’s dairy program as the company’s chief dairy officers.

“We were thrilled when Seven Acre asked us to collaborate on the dairy aspect of their program,” says Thomas Bates. “While the project is broader in scope, dairy is really at its heart. Nic and Danika’s vision is a beautiful combination of how dairy was historically produced and distributed, but with a modern

It was an opportune time to approach Landmark Creamery. The company was in the process of expanding its own operations from a retail shop and cheese aging facility to include all aspects of dairy production. This will include buying milk from small family farms in the area, which will allow Landmark Creamery to expand its cheese-making capacity. Landmark Creamery will run a small butter plant within the historic Seven Acre dairy building that will be entirely viewable to the public.

“The timing couldn’t be more perfect,” adds Landmark. “We look forward to working with Seven Acre Dairy to make unique cheeses for their hospitality program, and crafting butter onsite at Seven Acre

1950s Stock Certificate from Historic Cooperative

More on the building’s history:

Originally constructed by a cooperative of local dairy farmers in 1888, the factory made award-winning Swiss cheese, regionally-famous butter, and processed milk for wholesale clients for almost a century.

In the mid-1950s, the factory was one of the largest dairy factories in the state, supporting hundreds of small dairy farmers in Dane, Iowa, Green, Rock and Lafayette counties. It was already an innovator in bulk milk distribution and butter production before being purchased by the Pabst Company in 1955.

The Pabst Company operated the factory between 1955 and 1980. In 1980, as part of the broader consolidation of the dairy industry, Pabst permanently closed the facility, selling its milk contracts to the larger American Milk Producers Cooperative in Mount Horeb.