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Cheese still a specialty
Times photo: Brenda Steurer Secretary of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection Rod Nilsestuen talks to cheesemakers Monday at Chalet Cheese Co-op Monday about the importance of Wisconsins dairy industry and the importance of specialty cheese production to the states economy. Order photo
MONROE - Specialty cheeses have helped grow Wisconsin's economy over the past decade, Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection Secretary Rod Nilsestuen told cheesemakers Monday at Chalet Cheese Co-op north of Monroe.

Chalet Cheese Co-op was founded in 1885. The factory produces two types of Swiss cheese, two types of Brick cheese and Limburger.

"A decade ago people were worried about California farms but there has been an exodus out of California and some of those farmers are coming to Wisconsin," Nilsestuen said.

The result has been a steady increase in milk production in Wisconsin and with it a steady increase in the number of specialty cheeses produced throughout the state.

Nilsestuen said that was the reason he wanted to visit local cheese factories in Green County.

Chalet Cheese is the only cheese factory in the United States that produces Limburger cheese, manager and Master Cheesemaker Myron Olson told Nilsestuen.

"There are over 600 varieties of specialty cheeses made in Wisconsin," he said.

Nilsestuen said Gov. Jim Doyle recognizes the importance of milk and cheese production to the state's economy. He said Doyle wants to work with farmers to try to give them incentives to make investments to help create more jobs.

In addition to Chalet Cheese he also stopped at the Silver-Lewis Cheese Co-op near Monticello. Silver-Lewis Cheese Co-op has been operating since 1897 and produces Brick, Muenster and Farmers cheese. In 2008 the co-op received a grant through the Wisconsin Ag Department to help upgrade the plant's processing and storage area.