When he was in college, Ron Henningfeld used milk from the dairy farm he grew up on to make a small batch of cheese on his mother’s stovetop. He was trying to make mozzarella. What he got was a creamy substance that tasted pretty good, but wasn’t really cheese. “It got me curious about how cheese is really made on a large scale,” Henningfeld says.
He went on to learn the craft at an apprenticeship at Babcock Hall at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. From there, Henningfeld got a job at Uplands Cheese Inc. in Dodgeville before becoming a manager at Clock Shadow Creamery in Milwaukee, which he helped open in April 2012 and ran for three years.
About a year and a half ago, Henningfeld and his wife started their own business, Hill Valley Dairy, and began making and selling cheese. The Lake Geneva residents mostly make cheese curds, cheddar cheese, flavored cheddar and some Gouda, but they’re looking to
expand with the addition of an aging room this winter, which Henningfeld says will allow them to create different types and styles of cheese. Eventually, they’d like to open a cheese shop, too.
He says what sets apart Hill Valley Dairy from other cheesemakers is the milk, which they get from his brother’s dairy farm, Romari Farms in East Troy. “Also that I’m making cheese in small batches is important,” he adds. “It’s very handson work, and I can pay close attention to the process and quality of products.”
Hill Valley Dairy products are available year-round at Lake Geneva Country Meats and The Bottle Shop in Lake Geneva, River Valley Ranch in Burlington and 2894 On Main in East Troy. In the summer, look for them at the Lake Geneva Farmer’s Market.
“We started a cheese business because we enjoy it,” Henningfeld says. “We also have a lot of fun bringing a quality product to people who enjoy cheese, and we want to keep doing it.”