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Accomplished Cheese Maker Forms Hill Valley Dairy

Aug. 8, 2017
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Ron Henningfield, owner and licensed Cheesemaker at Hill Valley Dairy

When Ron Henningfeld of Hill Valley Dairy made his first batch of cheese at home many years ago, he laughingly recalled that it didn’t turn out great; however, he remained determined to learn the art of cheese making. At the time, he taught high school science and agriculture for the Delavan-Darien School District, but he still had time to learn cheese making with an eye toward pursuing it as a career.

Henningfeld took classes and got a cheese making apprenticeship required in Wisconsin to get a cheese makers license. He trained with a couple of cheese makers, including Bob Wills, owner of Cedar Grove Cheese and Clock Shadow Creamery. When Wills opened Clock Shadow Creamery in 2012, Henningfeld, who by then had transitioned out of teaching, served as manager and cheese maker. While at Clock Shadow, he trained others in the art of making small-batch, quality cheese.

Three years ago, Henningfeld and his wife had their first child. He left Clock Shadow to be a stay-at-home parent, but his passion for making cheese remained. Last summer, he formed Hill Valley Dairy to make and sell his own cheese. His entrepreneurial spirit comes from growing up on Romari Farm in East Troy, Wis., a dairy farm founded by his grandparents. Henningfeld often helped his father on the farm. “I always had it in me to work hard, but to work hard for myself and for my own business. That’s something I had in mind when I got into cheese making,” he said.

Through Hill Valley Dairy, Henningfeld makes cheese curds and sells them fresh so customers can enjoy that fun squeak and creamy taste that comes only from just-made curds. “I only sell them the day I make them. My customers really appreciate that and know that when they’re buying cheese curds from me, they’re the freshest curds, and they haven’t been sitting on a shelf anywhere.”

Henningfeld also makes small-batch white cheddar, yellow cheddar and flavored cheddars: garlic dill, habanero, tomato basil and Cajun. He rents space at Clock Shadow Creamery to make his cheese and buys milk from them. He also gets milk from Romari Farm. Henningfeld occasionally helps on the farm, which is now owned and operated by his brother.

While Henningfeld noted that a lot of other cheese producers also make cheddar, his future vision is to make aged cheeses with natural rinds, open aging on a shelf versus in a cooler. “I’m going to set up some aging rooms by winter, and that will help me start making wheels of gouda and alpine-style cheeses,” he said. “Some will be aged up to eight months for a full flavor development, and those will be my signatures cheeses. I will still make curds and cheddar.”

This past spring, Hill Valley Dairy received a Buy Local, Buy Wisconsin grant administered through the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. The grant allows him to proceed faster with making more artisan-style, naturally aged cheese. He’ll partner with other young cheese makers to collaborate on the design, assembly and operation of the cheese-aging facility.

Hill Valley Dairy is at the farmers markets in Lake Geneva, Burlington, Mukwonago and East Troy. The cheese is also available at Simon’s Gardens in New Berlin, the 2894 On Main coffee shop in East Troy and Lake Geneva Country Meats.

For more information, visit facebook.com/hillvalleydairy.


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