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Uplands Cheese: 2016 American Made Honoree

It takes real gumption to forge a new path in the cheese business. But that’s just what Andy Hatch and Scott Mericka did in 2014, when they took over a 300-acre farm west of Madison, Wisconsin.

uplands cheese family
Photography by: Christina Holmes
The Uplands Cheese family includes (from left) Scott and Liana Mericka and their sons, Everett and Henry; Andy and Caitlin Hatch with their son, Augie, and daughter, Gillie; and dogs Clover and Marshall.

Andy & Caitlin Hatch, Scott & Liana Mericka

Dodgeville, Wisconsin

Dairy farming doesn’t exactly woo young people, especially those who didn’t grow up on their parents’ spread. But after apprenticing with Uplands’ original owners, Hatch and Mericka found ways to make indie farming work for their families -- and to produce the country’s most-awarded cheese while they’re at it.

 

The Merickas manage the herd: 150 cows carefully crossbred from nine breeds, including Guernseys, Jerseys, and Montbéliardes, to produce the grass-fed milk that is Uplands’ secret sauce. “It’s shockingly sweet at first, and finishes green, like fresh olive oil,” says Hatch.

 

Meanwhile, his family oversees the cheese caves, where wheels of their pride and joy, Pleasant Ridge Reserve, dry-age. Its success has given them the flexibility to grow: They’ve also become known for rich, spreadable Rush Creek Reserve, made in the fall, and Hatch is now eyeing possibilities for late fall’s hay-fed milk. That creativity makes their lifestyle sustainable -- and inspiring. Says Hatch, “We want to show young families that they can stay in dairy farming.”

 

[FEELING INSPIRED? Try Our Meltingly Good Cheese Recipes]
uplands cheese
Photography by: Christina Holmes
Seven days a week in the summer, the Hatches and Merickas produce 70 wheels of Pleasant Ridge Reserve cheese, which is currently the most lauded cheese in America. They wash each by hand in brine to develop its complex flavors.
uplands cheese cow
Photography by: Christina Holmes
A favorite cow, long-lashed beauty Flor, has been “sort of a pet from day one,” says Andy Hatch.
uplands cheese
Photography by: Christina Holmes
Andy Johnson, one of Uplands’ cheese makers, cuts curd to make Pleasant Ridge Reserve
uplands cheese
Photography by: Christina Holmes
Blocks of Pleasant Ridge Reserve curd go into cheese hoops for pressing.
uplands cheese
Photography by: Christina Holmes
Rounds of Rush Creek Reserve -- a meaty, custardlike cheese wrapped in spruce bark -- are produced in the fall, as the weather cools and the cows start eating hay.
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