By Jennie Zeitler
Alise Sjostrom grew up on a dairy farm near Brooten, and had already decided when she was in her teen years that she wanted to make cheese. She told her dad, Jerry Jennissen, that although she wanted to make cheese, she didn’t want to milk the cows.
After Alise and her husband, Lucas, who grew up on a dairy farm near New Ulm, graduated from the University of Minnesota (U of M) and married in 2009, they moved to Vermont. Lucas worked for the Holstein Association and Alise marketed cheese for Grafton Village Cheese.
In 2011, they moved to Lake Mills, Wis., where Lucas worked for Hoard’s Dairyman and Alise marketed cheese for Crave Brothers Cheese. Their daughter, Lucy, was born in October 2012, a month before they returned to Stearns County.
“We knew we wanted to move back to Minnesota once we had kids,” Alise said.
Since Alise’s parents, Jerry and Linda, had built a new house in 2006, the original farmhouse was available for the young family to occupy.
Alise worked for Kimball’s Stickney Hill Dairy from home for a time. Lucas takes graduate classes in dairy management from the U of M.
Plans for the creamery have moved ahead full tilt in 2013. Named for Alise and her three red-headed sisters, the Sjostrom’s creamery is currently seeking people willing to contribute to the enterprise in exchange for certain rewards.
Using an online fundraising site called kick starter.com — which gets the word out about independently-created projects — the Sjostroms are raising the down payment on a loan for their new cheese-making building.
They led the effort by letting readers know that Redhead Creamery needs a new on-farm plant to bring more great cheese to Minnesota, using the leftover whey to “power the neighborhood.”
The loan will allow the couple to gain equity in the farm business and eventually take ownership.
“Our goal is $35,000,” Alise said. “We are hoping to break ground in early October and be making cheese by about April.”
The building will be built into a hill near a pond, with plenty of natural light.
“All of the cheese companies I worked in were completely closed, and you could not see the light of day,” said Alise. “We’re going to have lots of windows.”
The cheddar-aging caves will be “tucked into the hill, a good way of saving energy,” she said.
There will be viewing windows on the second floor for visitors to observe the processing area.
The Creamery’s original goal has been surpassed. A new goal of $40,000 has been set with a few days yet to go until the deadline of Wednesday, Sept. 25, at 8 p.m. CDT.
Mozart, Beethoven, Walt Whitman, Mark Twain and other artists funded their works in similar ways — not just with help from large patrons, but by soliciting money from smaller patrons, often called subscribers.
In return for their support, subscribers might have received an early copy or special edition of the work. Kickstarter is an extension of this model, accelerated by the web.
Contributors to Redhead Creamery may be able to take a tour of the finished facility, name a cow or make cheese themselves.
“We will be making fresh cheese curds, and have talked about doing a washed-rind cheese,” Alise said. “Long-term, we’ve also looked into doing a cultured butter and other artisan cheeses. We’d like to sell ice cream.”
The Sjostroms intend to use the leftover whey to power their building. Jer-Lindy Farm has what may be the smallest anaerobic methane gas digester in the United States. It was installed in 2007, to produce electricity using the gallons of manure produced by the dairy cows each day.
“Running our business this way means a lot to us,” said Alise. “It’s a way to decrease the negative impact on the planet. Being able to produce our own electricity is pretty amazing. Getting rid of the waste (whey) is usually the biggest issue with cheese makers.”
The Creamery will be reusing the water in the floor heating system for thermal energy.
“We are so thankful for our community’s support,” said Lucas. “We couldn’t do this without the help of many, many people.”
To contribute, go to www.kck.st/17dWrZa.
For more information, visit www.redheadcreamery.com.