Located on the top of Pleasant Ridge, in the Driftless region of southwestern Wisconsin, Uplands Cheese Company is owned and operated by two families: Andy and Caitlin Hatch, and Scott and Liana Mericka.
Andy Hatch studied Dairy Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and came to work for Uplands in 2007. Scott Mericka studied agronomy and grass-based dairy farming at Warren Wilson College in Asheville, North Carolina, an agricultural college with a working farm and soon followed Andy’s footsteps and started work with Uplands in 2010. What began as apprenticeships led to roles as managers, and then owners.
The farm itself sits on Pleasant Ridge, an area graced with lush rolling hills and valleys that have been formed over tens of thousands of years by rivers and streams. Spanning over 300 acres, every day the herd are moved from paddock to paddock to ensure they are always eating fresh grass and that the pasture isn’t overgrazed and will re-grow in time for the next grazing.
The two families purchased the farm from founders Mike Gingrich and Dan Patenaude in 2014, who after years of farming separately as neighbours joined their small herds and managed them in a seasonal, pasture-based system. The location of the farm and it’s layout was ideal for growing the diverse range of grasses, legumes and herbs that in return produced such high quality milk. The milk was pooled with that of other local farmers and used at the local cheese factory, which seemed a shame considering it’s unique properties and flavour. With this in-mind they began looking for a way to take advantage of these flavours, and looked to other regions in the world where cheese is produced seasonally from grass-fed cows.
Southern Wisconsin has a deep reservoir of cheese making knowledge, much of which has been passed down from the alpine cheese makers who have emigrated here over the past two hundred years. In 2000, Mike and Dan began working with local cheese makers and with the cheese scientists at the nearby Center for Dairy Research, and eventually settled on their own version of these ancient, alpine recipes, they soon created Pleasant Ridge Reserve.
Pleasant Ridge Reserve is an aged, alpine-style cheese. Like the coveted, alpage versions of Beaufort and Gruyere, Pleasant Ridge is made only in the summer months, while the cows are grazing fresh pasture.
‘My entire life is built around the rhythm of that cheese.’Andy Hatch, on the production of Pleasant Ridge Reserve
The sweetness born from the grass-fed milk combines with the savory flavors developed by the cheese’s natural, washed rind. The resulting complexity – rich and salty, with a long, fruity finish – has made Pleasant Ridge one of the most distinctive and celebrated cheeses in America.