Wisconsin Specialty Cheese Institute

For more than 160 years, cheesemaking in Wisconsin has been a central part of the state's culture and agricultural heritage. As the nation's leader in cheese production, Wisconsin is known for both the quality and diversity of its cheeses. Today, because consumers are demanding more unique, distinctively flavored cheeses, specialty cheeses are the fastest-growing category in Wisconsin. For the cheesemaker, specialty products are a means both to strengthen margins and to create signature products that set them apart.

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Member Spotlight

Shirley Knox
Owner of Maple Leaf Cheese, Monroe, Wis.
Shirley Knox has been with Maple Leaf Cheese for the last sixteen years of the company's 100-year history and has been a member of WSCI for nearly fifteen years. 

Why did you join WSCI? I was new to the cheese industry and found a lot of friends at WSCI. Some of my customers were members and suggested that I join.

How has membership in WSCI benefited you and your business? The networking has been invaluable in learning the workings of the industry and in finding out what other people do in challenging situations.

Why did you choose to become a part of the specialty cheese community? I used to work in the banking business and had cheese companies as clients. Cheese people always had a positive feeling – they were making a real product. They were making something they could be proud of, while being creative at the same time. It also seemed like a stable and growing industry.

What has been a favorite part of your career? Growing our business and developing our employees. Giving an employee a chance to advance in our company where they might not have had a chance. Helping and Training. It is very rewarding - not only professionally, but also personally - to help develop current and future employees.

Please list a few of your most recent accomplishments. We are proud of our recent awards, but mostly I am proud of the company we have built and the people that work here. We make very special products that are challenging to make and require a lot of dedication and hard work, yet every day we do it successfully.

Shirley feels WSCI provides its members value, as it truly is a networking group of cheese professionals who exchange information and ideas in a unintimidating environment.

She explained, "WSCI meetings are unique in that they are set up to inform people in a variety of professional positions within the cheese industry. Meetings are usually at a location where an educational tour precedes the meeting. During the meeting, a variety of groups present materials that help inform everyone of the resources and events that are available. Afterwards, there is usually a networking lunch where members share ideas and experiences with each other to solve technical or resource challenges. Although some members may compete for some business, the environment of meetings is such that members do not feel like competitors, but like colleagues."