Warner Twp.

Clark Co., Wisconsin

Al Wessel is our Warner Township Historian

The Clark County Central Cheese Factory

By Bruce Liebzeit and Beatrice "Bede" Liebzeit; transcribed by Liz Liebzeit-Cook

Liebzeit Cheese Factory

Liebzeit Cheese Factory in Greenwood, Wisconsin

Christmas Gift from this Liebzeit Factory.

Interview with Eldon Liebzeit

Below are excerpts from a Food Manufacturing Internship paper written by Bruce Liebzeit and Beatrice "Bede" Liebzeit in October 1981. From youth to adulthood, Bruce worked with his father, Clarence "Scoop" Liebzeit at their cheese factory:

Clark County Central Cheese Factory
Route 2
Greenwood, WI 54437

The Clark County Central Cheese Factory was one of the oldest cheese factories in Clark County. It was located in Central Clark County, three miles northwest of Greenwood, Wisconsin, in the township of Warner and derived its name from the location. In the early 1900’s a group of local farmers decided to form a partnership, and built a factory with living quarters attached, and it was known as a farmer’s factory. They elected a three-man board, composed of a president, secretary-treasurer, and a director. They, in turn, hired a cheesemaker who worked for a salary or so much a pound.

In those days, the farmers brought the milk in cans on a horse drawn wagon. They would line up by the intake, waiting to be unloaded, while they waited their turn, the local news was talked about and many stories were shared. Upon leaving they would fill their milk cans with whey from the big outdoor whey tank, from the day before cheesemaking, to take home for feed for their pigs. All milk cans were hand washed at home.

Work was hard in a cheese factory. It meant 365 days a year, no Sundays or holidays off. The boilers were fired by hand with wood and in later years with coal.

After about fifteen years, the board decided to sell their factory to Mr. And Mrs. Arnold Beyer. The Beyers kept it for about ten years and then sold it to R. W. Moldenhauer. There were some hard years ahead with the depression. There were improvements made, milk routes were established, with an open stake truck being used, but close farmers continued to haul their own, as there was a fee charged for milk pickups.

In 1933 electricity came to the area, and after that many changes were made.

In 1940, Mr. Moldenhauer sold the factory to Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Liebzeit. The purchase price at that time was $6,000, which included living quarters, plus the factory with the machinery and one truck. Many changes took place, a new truck was purchased, milk routes were extended, but a few local patrons still hauled their own milk. Cheddar cheese was made and the finished product was sold to Mid State, who had a warehouse in Greenwood, WI.

During the 1940s and 1950s many changes took place. New equipment was purchased including a can washer, a pasteurizer, and new vats with agitators. There was always competition with local factories, so farmers frequently changed from one place to another.

In 1956 another small factory was for sale, so that was purchased and milk from that plant was hauled to our plant. So that meant for expansion, so an addition was added for another vat and also a cooler for cheese storage was added. There were now four can trucks with vans to pick up milk. During some of the bad winters with lots of snow, milk sometimes did not get in until late at night.

Progress continued in the dairy industry, farmers were installing bulk tank, so by 1962 a new truck with a tanker was purchased for hauling bulk milk, and another room was added to house the bulk truck, for unloading and washing.

Hired help was always a problem no one wanted to work seven days a week or Sundays and holidays.

In 1970, a silo tank was installed, so days off could be arranged and Sundays could be taken off, except for the bulk haulers.

About that time, a bulk tank was installed for cream. Cream had been hauled in cans to John Wuethrich Creamery Co, located in Greenwood, WI. Now they would pick it up once a week.

In the fall of 1975, a group of Amish farmers moved in the area so they shipped can milk to the plant. They are good people, but followed their own customs. They did not want to ship milk on Sunday or religious holidays, so problems arose with milk quality.

In May of 1978, discontinuation of can milk took place, that meant a loss of milk. There were about 15 bulk patrons who shipped about 17,000 pounds per day.

Cheese markets were getting harder to find. Borden’s did not want 40-pound blocks and barrels of cheese could not be made in the plant. So for the last year of operation, cheese was hauled to Clearfield Cheese Co. Inc. and then to Marathon, WI, which was quite a long haul. Foremost Foods of Owen, WI, had picked up whey from the plant but that changed too.

So a special truck was used to haul whey to some of the farmers to be used for feed or hauled on to their fields.

The permit with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources ran out on September 30, 1981. So my dad, Scoop decided to close the plant and retire from cheesemaking.

My mother, Bede, did the bookwork of the cheese factory. Once a year, a certified public accountant would audit the books so a financial statement was prepared to obtain an operator’s license.

My job at the dairy plant was; all phases of manufacturing cheese: procurement of milk; hauling of milk from the farms to the factory; weighing, sampling, and testing of the milk; operation of milk receiving; pasteurization; starter production; cheese vat operation, cheese packaging, and shipping; plant sanitation and housekeeping; plant maintenance and record keeping. The cheese product was packaged, properly labeled, weighed and then stored at the plant cooler onsite. The cheese was then shipped weekly to the retailer; who we sold it to. We made various types of cheese, such as Cheddar, Daisies, and Colby.

To maintain quality we kept a very clean and sanitized factory and maintained all the equipment up to Federal Standards. I worked with our farmers on keeping good sanitation and cleaning of their equipment and milk houses. I also worked with the farmers when they had problems of "high plate counts" or trouble with "mastitis."

I have graded cheese at the plant for the last six years for texture, flavor, body, openings, gas, yeast, and pinholes. I have never applied for a cheese grader’s license, because the company we sell to regrades the cheese.

The future of a small plant as of now does not look good. The larger plants are merging with one another. Milk routes are branching out farther and farther. In our area in a two-mile radius, we have about six different trucks picking up milk.

The dairy industry is working towards one grade of milk, but that will take time. As of now, there are two kinds of milk: Grade A and Manufacturing milk. Each with a different price, and in smaller places, it is all mixed together in the same vat for cheese manufacturing. That is one big factor that is hurting the smaller factories as there is about 50 cent per hundredweight difference between Grade A and Grade B milk. I think with the next ten years, almost all of the factories will be run by big cooperatives, which in turn will be run by the Federal Government.

(Final grade on the paper by the teacher read "A" and a footnote: "Excellent report, however I am always sad to see small plants close the doors.)

 

 


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