General manager Pet Kondrup said organic farmers from all over Wisconsin and from southeast Minnesota provide milk for the organic products the creamery makes, and conventional farmers within 25 miles of Westby provide milk for the conventional products. He said the first organic patron came on board in 2005.
The creamery makes cottage cheese, yogurt, cheese curds, sour creams, dips and butter. The creamery also makes food service and ingredients and has private label capabilities.
Kondrup said the creamery makes conventional and organic products every day and they are segregated in the plant. “There is a special process to keep things separated.”
In 2021, Kondrup said, the creamery produced 26.5 million pounds of product and expects to produce 27.6 million pounds this year. “We’re well on our way.”
The newest product the creamery has for consumers is sour cream in a squeezable pouch. Emily Bialkowski, sales and marketing manager, said it was a “considerable investment” for the cooperative. She said a room in the plant was refurbished for the line.
“It’s been well received,” Bialkowski said. “The consumer likes the convenience of the package. We’re thrilled to be innovators in the industry. You don’t get utensils dirty; it’s convenient — you don’t have a large open container where bacteria could form. There’s a cap to keep it fresh.”
Kondrup said the cooperative is “always working on something new.”
“We do a lot of bulk stuff,” he said. “It’s not glamorous but it pays the bills.” He added private label manufacturing is a big part of the cooperative’s business. “We are one of the largest makers of organic cottage cheese in the country.”
Bialkowski said people who are interested in finding stores that carry Westby Cooperative Creamery products can go to westbycreamery.com, click on the store locator and type in their ZIP code to find the nearest store. There is also an option for consumers to purchase products online and have them shipped.
Westby Cooperative Creamery products can also be purchased at the Westby Cheese Store, located at 206 S. Main St. The store moved to the new location in August 2019 and a grand reopening was held in October of that year. The retail store was previously located at 401 S. Main St. in the same building as the creamery plant.
Kondrup said the previous retail store had limited space and there were a lot of steps for customers to climb. “That was always a concern,” he said of the steps. That former retail space now houses the creamery plant’s lab.
He said moving the retail store gave the creamery better opportunities for online sales and more space to pack those orders. He said the creamery had been renting that space for other uses and now owns the building.
Kondrup said in addition to selling the creamery’s products, the retail store sells such items as ice cream cones, bakery goods from Hansen’s Country Bakery, wines from the area, cheese from other manufacturers and coffee. “We were able to expand (the products we offered).”
The creamery has its general offices and distribution center on Westby’s north side, at 615 N. Main St.
Bialkowski said she invites anyone who wants to learn more about the creamery to check them out on social media. In addition to news updates, there are glimpses of farm life provided by the cooperative’s farm ambassador, a farmer-owner who started sharing stories and photos in December 2021.
“(The farm ambassador) provides a connection — a way for people to feel connected to the food they eat,” Bialkowski said.