WCMA Announces Ten Cheese Industry Leaders to be Recognized with Awards at 2020 CheeseExpo

WCMA News ,

The Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association (WCMA) Board of Directors has selected ten individuals to be recognized at the 2020 CheeseExpo for their outstanding work in the dairy processing industry.

In 2020, Roger Krohn will receive the Association’s highest honor: the WCMA Life Member Award.  WCMA has offered the Life Member Award since 1918, and Krohn will be the 89th recipient.  The award recognizes people who have played a significant role in the success of the Association through leadership, support, and service to the institution and its activities.

A third-generation cheesemaker, Roger Krohn began his career at age 14 working in a family business alongside his father.  Now, with more than 40 years in the business, Krohn is certified as a Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker for Mozzarella and Provolone cheeses.  Krohn is Cheese Technical Manager for the Luxemburg location of Agropur where he produces award-winning cheese varieties.  Roger Krohn is a long-time and active member of WCMA, having served as on the Association’s Board of Directors, including as President from 1998-2000.

Max Gonzenbach, Rudy Nef, and Wilbur Nielsen will be recognized as the 2020 WCMA Cheese Industry Champions, awards that are given to industry leaders who, through their everyday business decisions, have created tremendous opportunity for others.

Max Gonzenbach and Rudy Nef assumed full leadership of Valley Queen Cheese Factory of Milbank, South Dakota in 1970, taking over for their fathers, Alfred Gonzenbach and Alfred Nef, two Swiss immigrants who founded the company in 1929.  Under their direction, the company’s growth dramatically accelerated, and today, Valley Queen converts more than 1.5 billion pounds of milk each year into natural cheeses, dried lactose, WPC 80, and anhydrous milk fat.  In August 2019, Nef stepped down from his role on the Valley Queen Board of Directors; on that occasion, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem proclaimed it “Rudy Nef Day” across the state.  Gonzenbach continues to serve on the Board.  Valley Queen Cheese Factory employs more than 280 people, and plays a significant role in supporting community projects and philanthropic campaigns.

Wilbur Nielsen co-owns Independence, Iowa-based Wapsie Valley Creamery alongside his son, Mark, and grandson, Ryan.   Nielsen has been involved in the daily management and direction of  Wapsie Valley Creamery for more than 60 years, having picked up the torch from his father, the first owner of the business.  One of three cheese factories operating in Iowa today, Wapsie Valley Creamery sells its cheese wholesale to companies around the country to use in processed cheese, cheese spreads, shredded cheeses and calf milk replacer.  Wapsie Valley Creamery employs more than 80 people, with an expansion project currently in the works, and purchases milk from 220 Midwestern farms.

The WCMA Distinguished Service Award, reserved for respected and highly-valued supplier partners to the cheese manufacturing industry, is unique in that the Association allows members to vote on prospective honorees.  David Carpenter and Dick Groves have been selected for the honor in 2020.

David Carpenter served as the President of Chr. Hansen, Inc. before his retirement in 2018.   He joined the company in 1999, previously working as Director of Sales and Marketing, Dairy Ingredients Division; Senior Vice President Bio Ingredients; and Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing. Carpenter grew up on a dairy farm in Northern Arkansas and began his career at Coleman Dairy in Little Rock, AR as Quality Control Manager. He later worked as Vice President - Global Business Unit Cultures & Enzymes for SKW, and as Senior Vice President of Continental Colloids.  Carpenter has served both the dairy processing industry and his community in many volunteer positions.

During his 41-plus years at the Cheese Reporter, Dick Groves has covered everything from congressional and federal order hearings to the last trading session at the National Cheese Exchange and the first cash cheese trading session at the CME.  Groves joined Cheese Reporter as a part-time reporter and writer in January of 1978 while attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison as an agricultural journalism major. After graduating in 1980, Groves was promoted to assistant editor of the weekly newspaper in 1981 and became the paper’s editor in 1985. Groves acquired the Cheese Reporter in November of 1989. He ranks among the longest-serving editors and publishers in the annals of dairy publishing.  In addition to owning and editing Cheese Reporter, Groves served for a total of 12 years as a Supplier Representative on the WCMA Board of Directors.

The WCMA Babcock Award, named for Stephen Babcock, the famed agricultural chemist and University of Wisconsin professor, recognizes the contributions of those in education or affiliate organizations partnering with cheesemakers in the pursuit of dairy industry innovation and excellence, and will be given to Dr. Floyd Bodyfelt and Dr. Norm Olson in 2020.

As Professor Emeritus in the Department of Food Science and Technology at Oregon State University, Dr. Floyd Bodyfelt is recognized for his advisory role in the development of HACCP standards, and for his research and writing on food and dairy products quality and safety control processes.  Dr. Bodyfelt served as Coordinator of the Food Science Extension programs offered via Oregon State, and served as a Food Safety and Quality Systems auditor with the National Sanitation Foundation.

During his 40 years of service in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences at UW-Madison, Dr. Norm Olson earned the respect and admiration of his peers, students and the entire dairy industry. Instrumental in organizing the first Center for Dairy Research in the country, Dr. Olson also served as its first Director. In addition, he taught classes from 1959-1997 and was the Director of the Cheese Research Institute from 1979-1993. His research focused around the chemistry, microbiology and technology of cheese products and acceleration of cheese ripening.

The WCMA Vanguard Award is intended to recognize cheesemakers or cheese manufacturing employees whose work helped to blaze new trails in dairy operations.  In 2020, this award will be given to Carl Buell and Tom Everson.

Carl Buell launched his career in dairy processing at a Kraft Foods plant in Blackfoot, Idaho.  He relocated to Green Bay, working as part of Kraft’s national procurement group.  Buell managed a stable of Kraft contract cheese plants including: A-G Co-op, Alto Dairy, Dairyman’s Cooperative Creamery, Davisco, Jim Falls Dairy, Krause Dairy, Valley Queen Cheese Factory, Weyauwega Milk Products, Wisconsin Dairies, Wisconsin Dairy State Cheese, and others.  While at Kraft, Buell received the Jade Ring award for innovations using alternative packaging materials for barrel cheese.  In 1986, Buell joined Leprino Foods, devoting 30 years to its technical services division.  As a Vice President at Leprino, Buell constructed and operated the Leprino Foods cheese plants in California, Colorado, Michigan, and New Mexico.  He was also part of many innovations for Leprino, including mozzarella processing techniques and starter culture production.  Buell continues to work part-time for Leprino helping to institute a new technical program for their expert cheesemakers.

Dr. Tom Everson grew up in his family’s cheese factory, Brushville Cheese, near Berlin, Wisconsin.  Earlier in his career, he worked for a whey processor in Juneau, Wisconsin, and at Dairyland Food Labs, a culture, coagulant, and annatto color supply house, before landing at Wisconsin Dairies Cooperative.  Years of work led to Everson’s role as Vice President of Technical Services, leading quality, research and development, food safety, and scientific affairs in their Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota facilities.  Everson is credited for sharing knowledge via scientific publications on the management of large, modern cheese plants.  He was also heavily involved in the first price premium programs for dairy farmers that delivered lower somatic cell counts in milk.  Later in his career, Everson joined Grande Cheese Company, serving as Vice President of Technology until his retirement in 2007.  He now works as an industry consultant.

Awards will be presented to honorees at the WCMA Recognition Breakfast at CheeseExpo 2020 on Thursday, April 16 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  For more information and to register to attend this event, please visit CheeseExpo.org.