Family traditions run deep in America’s Dairyland as Carr Valley commemorates 14 decades of cheesemaking. Sid Cook, a fourth generation master cheesemaker, followed the footsteps of his great-great-uncle Ed Leply who began cheesemaking in southwestern Wisconsin in 1883. Inspired by Ed, in 1944 Sid’s parents, Sam and Merna Cook, bought the Irish Valley factory, a small cheesemaking operation in Plain, WI, for $500 and established the family business. “I can remember really wanting to be a part of it from a young age – our house was connected to the plant, so I could walk out our kitchen door and step into the factory. I loved it, I would go into the plant and ride my trike around the vats. But as soon as I could stand on a bucket, I was helping. My parents would give me tasks like stirring, cleaning, and anything to keep me busy. Pretty soon I was making my own vats of cheese and I got my cheesemaking license when I was sixteen.”
After many years learning everything about the family business, Cook bought his own plant in 1986: Carr Valley Cheese in La Valle, WI. In many ways, his new venture mirrored the factory he grew up in. There are employees working with Carr Valley that started with him in the 80s, many of whom are joined by other family members with multi-generational experience. A few of his cheesemaking practices haven’t changed either, like making cheese by hand and using open vats. This family connection and passion for cheesemaking is what makes Carr Valley and its rich history so special. “We have a lot of passion for what we do and hope to continue bringing pride to our communities for another 140 years!”
To read more about Carr Valley Cheese, check out this 2013 article from our archives.