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sliced cheese on a wooden board

Couple launches artisan cheese making company at family dairy farm

–by Jonathan Eisenthal

Redhead_CreameryAlise Sjostrom realized a longtime dream with the launch in July 2014, of Redhead Creamery, an artisan cheese maker, located on the dairy farm where she grew up. The dairy herd and the cheese company, located near Brooten, Minnesota, are jointly owned by Alise, her husband, Lucas, and her parents, Jerry and Linda Jennisen.

Production of cave-aged cheddar, fresh cheese curds and other cheeses reached a steady level in October of last year. “Lucky Linda” cheddar (named for Alise’s mother) and “Little Lucy,” (named for Lucas and Alise’s daughter), a six-ounce wheel of Brie, are popular offerings. Occasional experiments like cayenne-rubbed cheddar also make brief appearances in the shop’s cooler.

“It’s a fully operating cheese plant,” Alise describes their facility. “We have a tunnel that runs from the milk house to the cheese plant, which runs milk directly from our milking parlor to our pasteurizer tank, so we are using very fresh milk when we make our cheese. We have viewing windows in our cheese plant, and we welcome the public to come and watch if they want to. We also have a retail shop upstairs. We just got our liquor license as well, so we can host beer and wine pairings with cheeses.”

Redhead Creamery made use of AURI’s cost-share program to finance some of their scale-up and product development costs, as well as pre-engineering costs. AURI also provided product analysis, nutritional fact labeling and troubleshooting assistance during the building phase.

The holiday gift market and a growing network of retailers are a big part of their business, and they have made farmer’s markets a key segment too, but the Sjostrom’s have also created amenities to make Redhead Creamery a destination. They give tours and the addition of a commercial kitchen and a meeting space allows them to host groups up to 40, lunch included.

“We’d like to create curriculum materials, so that the teachers include information about dairy production right in their lesson plan,” says Lucas. “And then they can bring the classes out here to see how it’s done.”

Redhead Creamery recently hosted a class reunion, and in March, AURI held its project and technical staff meeting there.

“We were able to watch the cheese making, sample some of the fresh curds, and enjoy a delicious lunch prepared by them,” says Becky Philipp, the AURI project manager responsible for overseeing the financial and technical assistance provided to Redhead Creamery. Philipp says, “They are wonderful hosts. It was a great experience. Their creativity, personable nature and entrepreneurial style serve them very well in their business.”

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