LaClare Farms, maker of U.S. Championship Evalon goat’s milk cheese, will host a grand opening of its new farmstead dairy facility with a weekend of events, Nov. 1-4.
Located at W2994 County Road HH, east of the intersection of Highway 151, in tiny Pipe, the facility includes a dairy plant, retail store and cafe, along with a milking parlor with housing for 600 milking goats. The retail shop offers specialty cheeses, craft beers, wines, ice cream and Wisconsin local foods.
On Friday, Nov. 1, the farmstead cafe, which offers a daily menu for lunch and dinner, will offer a special Grand Opening Fish Fry from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Festivities continue on Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 2-3 with free tours of the entire facility every hour on the hour from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The public may also participate in free seminars discussing cheese making, dairy goat farming and a special wine and cheese pairing from 1 to 3 p.m. on Saturday. A petting zoo will be available for children, with all-day tastings of cheese, beer and wine for adults.
On both days, owners Larry and Clara Hedrich and their family will host a dedication ceremony for the 35,000 square foot facility at 2 p.m.
“This has truly been a labor of love for our family,” co-owner Larry Hedrich said. “We are proud to open one of the most modern dairy processing facilities in the United States, producing the highest quality dairy products possible. We can’t wait to show it off to the public.”
The LaClare Farms dairy plant is capable of processing cow, goat and sheep milk products, including cheese, cultured products and bottled milk. In addition to crafting their own LaClare Farms products, the Hedrichs perform custom processing and aging, and work with other dairy entrepreneurs to develop new products.
The entire facility offers public viewing windows so visitors may see first-hand what’s happening in the goat milking parlor, dairy processing plant and cheese aging rooms.
The new farmstead dairy plant allows the Hedrich family to expand their current offering of goat’s milk and mixed milk cheeses, including Evalon, Fresh Chevre, Cheddar, Fondy Jack and an array of American Originals, all crafted by the Hedrich’s daughter, Katie, who is a 2011 U.S. Champion Cheese maker.
A new cheese is slated to be unveiled during the Grand Opening weekend.
The couple’s son, Greg, is the business manager of the integrated agricultural enterprise, and daughter, Jessica, runs the retail shoppe/cafe. Another daughter, Anna, works part-time in herd management while continuing her off-enterprise job. All Hedrich siblings hold university degrees in subjects ranging from marketing to education.
The project was made possible by financial assistance from Fond du Lac County, the Fond du Lac County Economic Development Corporation and Calumet County Bank, Brillion.
At the Cafe, Chef Jim prepares great meals for customers. They feature a maple barbeque pulled pork sandwich and a half pound burger with choice of cow or goat cheddar. A honey crisp grilled cheese sandwich goes great with the soup of the day. The entrees come with a choice of house cut fries, homemade soup, a mixed green salad or fruit. The Cafe is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.
The public is invited to come and view the milking everyday at 4:30 p.m. There are 24 goats that can be milked on one side at a time. Therefore, there are 48 goats in the parlor at one time.
The Creamery should be in production within the next month. In The Creamery, all of their cheeses will be made on site. They will also make yogurt, ice cream, and bottle their own milk.
Presently, the farm milks 430 goats, taking about two hours to milk. The goats are milked twice per day, at 6 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Larry and Clara try to milk as much as their schedules allow. If they are not available, they have two employees that handle the milking. The Hedrich’s have about 20 employees, with eight of them being full-time.
Katie will be making cheese at LaClare Farms as soon as she returns from her honeymoon. She has been involved in making LaClare Farms cheese since the beginning and now oversees the entire cheese making process.
Katie is very passionate about cheese making and continues to produce award-winning products. She went to Northern Michigan University and got her bachelor degree in business and marketing. Katie then studied to become a licensed cheese maker.
The Evalon is made exclusively from milk produced at LaClare Farms. The name comes from Larry’s grandma Evelyn, who was married to Greg Ecker — the couple purchased the land where the new facility is located in the 1940s.