On a recent trip to Wisconsin, USDA Rural Development Under Secretary Dallas Tonsager had an opportunity to revisit a specialty cheese plant in Montfort, Wis. that he had helped to establish about ten years ago.
In 2002, the Wisconsin Farmers Union hired a cheesemaker and took steps to begin the start-up of a specialty cheese plant in Montfort, Wis. to add value to milk produced by Wisconsin dairy farmers and to create the WI Farmers Union Specialty Cheese Company. To ensure success of the endeavor, the Wisconsin Farmers Union sought assistance from Golden Plains Ventures, an organization founded by Under Secretary Tonsager.
Under Secretary Tonsager was hands-on throughout the process of establishing the cheese manufacturing plant, from conception and planning, to building the facility and naming the brand.
In addition, with the help of Mr. Tonsager, the Wis. Farmers Union submitted an application for a USDA Rural Development Value Added Producer Grant. The application was successful and the Wisconsin Farmers Union was awarded a $75,000 grant to assist with start-up costs, including the purchase of milk from area producers to begin production and to provide working capital.
In 2009, Arthur Schuman Inc. acquired the Montforte™ manufacturing facility and line of award winning cheese, changing the name to Imperia Foods, Inc.
This specialty cheese plant manufactures the Montforte™ Blue and Gorgonzola Cheeses. Both are made with fresh cows’ milk from Wisconsin and crafted in the Old World tradition of artisan cheesemakers.
Since inception, they’ve struck gold with this manufacturing gem. Montforte™ Gorgozola won Best in Class at the 2006 and 2011 United States Cheese Competition, and took first at the 2011 World Dairy Expo Dairy Product Contest. The Montforte™ Blue won Best in Class at the 2006 World Championships. At the American Cheese Society competitions the Montforte™ Gorgonzola won First Place in 2007 and 2010 and the Montforte™ Blue won First Place in 2007.