Meet The Locals: Westby Cooperative Creamery
Westby Cooperative Creamery is a farmer-owned creamery in Western Wisconsin that specializes in small-batch, high-quality products. Their co-op was established in 1903 and has been owned by the farmers and their families since the beginning. Today, they are owned by about 200 families, seven of whom make up the board of directors who are responsible for the larger budgetary decisions and strategic planning for the co-op. Their 125 employees are then responsible for the day-to-day operations of the creamery and offices, such as making their delicious products, marketing them, running programs and events, and maintaining the farmer/co-op relationships.
The creamery has existed for nearly 120 years now, and they still remain committed to being a forward-thinking business focused on sustainability and small farming. In fact, the largest farm that supplies milk to Westby has only 150 head of cattle, a very small number when compared to large-scale dairy farms. Working with only small farms allows them to maintain high-quality products and sustainable practices on each of the farms. To join Westby Co-op Creamery, the farms are required to be a part of the FARM (Farmers Assuring Responsible Practices) Program, a third-party system that audits animal welfare practices and does facility evaluations. Organic certification is not required to be a Westby farmer, but about 65% of the farms that are part of the co-op are certified and contribute to their organic product line.
If you ask around, you’ll quickly find out Westby is most famous for their cottage cheese, and that is because they are the only producer of cottage cheese in the state. This variety is made by draining the cheese rather than pressing it, which keeps the curds loose before they add in their famous secret dressing. Making cottage cheese is a highly technical process, and most creameries don’t take on making the product because it is so time-sensitive, which makes Westby even more unique. In addition to cottage cheese, they’re also well-known for their sour cream, dips, and industrial-size yogurt that businesses use to make other products.
After chatting with Westby, it is clear that the farmers are central to the co-op. Employees have a sense of purpose in the work that they do, and they know that they are preserving a valued way of life of these farmers for generations to come. With dairy farms closing at an alarming rate, the preservation of family farms is more important than ever. Next time you purchase a Westby Cooperative Creamery product, remember that by choosing their products, you are directly supporting small, family farms located right here in our region.
This article was originally published in the May/June 2022 issue of our bi-monthly newsletter, The Morsel. If you’d like to read more stories like this one and stay up to date on the latest co-op news and events, pick up a print copy in-store on your next grocery run or find more news on our website here.