Women of Wisconsin Cheese: The Annas of Landmark Creamery

The dynamic Anna duo: Landmark, left, Thomas Bates, right.

The dynamic Anna duo: Landmark, left, Thomas Bates, right.

After sharing a drink or two with my friends at the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board at the last American Cheese Society Conference, we decided to collaborate on a project (this is how most things get done at ACS). I’d get to pitch a topic. My pick? The female cheesemakers of Wisconsin. I’d tell the stories of four of my favorite cheesemakers in a series of four posts over a couple weeks. I loved interviewing these ladies and thank them for their time. This is the first of the series, focusing on Landmark Creamery.

 

In a state like Wisconsin where third-generation dairy farmers are as common as twenty-degree days and aspiring cheesemakers train for more than two hundred hours to earn their license, it can take a lot for newbies to establish themselves. So when Bob Willis of Cedar Grove told the Annas of Landmark Creamery they could use his Milwaukee Clock Shadow space when his other cheesemakers were off or home sleeping, they jumped on it.

Anna Landmark would drive the two hours from her home in Albany in the afternoon, make the cheese, hoop the curds, then wash up and head home. Then Thomas Bates would arrive, (also from Albany) make sure the curds were draining right, flip the wheels, and wash up again, sometimes not getting home until two or three in the morning.

“We’d pass each other on the highway,” said Landmark, who was also pregnant during much of her Shadow Clock tenure. Both women have children at home.

“We decided we were too old to take naps at truck stops,” said Thomas Bates, nodding.

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Now the two are making cheese at Cedar Grove closer to their Albany homes and though happily are a little less sleep deprived, are just as impassioned.

Landmark Creamery makes three cheeses. Tall Grass (pictured at top) is their citrusy, mushroomy, grassy semi-firm wheel made from local sheep and cow’s milk. Petite Nuage is their tiny ten-ounce fluffy, white sheep’s milk cheese button. Anabasque (pictured below) is their brown buttery, lively, aged semi-firm French Pyrenees sheep’s milk inspiration. Not even two years old, Landmark’s cheeses have grazed restaurant plates as close as Estrellon in Madison to Manresa in Santa Cruz.

Landmark runs the cheese vat and Tomas Bates directs orders and marketing. The two met at a Green County Women in Sustainable Agriculture potluck and became close friends while their children were in the same class at school. When they both discovered that they wanted to start a food business and equally adored cheese, their fate was sealed. Landmark winning a Cheese Originals Beginning Cheesemaker Scholarship to help fund getting her license was another boost.

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The two first decided on sheep’s milk because they knew the animals would happily and sustainably graze on the grass around the region’s cows, and they thought their children would like to play with them. When they found out they could buy grass fed milk from the state’s only pastured and grass-fed cow’s milk co-op, they added that to the vat, creating their first mixed milk cheese.

With great milk, cheesemaker Bob Wills’s mentoring, and cheesemakers like Holland Farm’s Marieke Peterson, Brenda Jenson of Hidden Springs, Diana Murphy of Dream Farm, and Anne Topham of Fantome Farm that Landmark cited as influences, the two have no lack of inspiration.

Aapparently the Annas themsleves inspire too. Tomas Bates’s son is considering his next career move.

“My seven year old son said he’d take over the business when we’re done, that’s if he doesn’t want to be a tree trimmer,” she says, laughing.

 

The posts were sponsored, and edited only by me.