MADISON, WIS. – The Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association (WCMA) announced it chose 11 dairy leaders to receive awards in 2024 for their contributions to the industry.

Dave Buholzer, a senior managing partner at Klondike Cheese Company, Monroe, Wis., was named the winner of the WCMA Life Member award, which the organization described as its highest honor. Per WCMA, the award “recognizes people who have played a significant role in the success of the association through leadership, support and service.”

The WCMA will present its Luminary Award to Dave Leonhard, retired national sales manager for Nasonville Dairy, and Mike Pederson, retired cheese and butter grader for the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture. The organization said the award goes to “individuals who championed new concepts, innovative ideas and superior quality to grow dairy sales in the US or around the world.”

Two dairy processing professionals earned the Cheese Industry Champion Award. Ted Jacoby Jr. serves as chairman emeritus of the board for TC Jacoby & Company, and Fritz Leeman is the retired majority owner of Brewster Cheese. Honorees of the award are noted for everyday business decisions that created “tremendous opportunity” for others.

WCMA selected Gary Starkson and Reda Yacoub to receive the organization’s Distinguished Service Award, which goes to “respected and highly valued supplier partners to the cheese manufacturing industry.” Starkson, who retired at Advanced Process Technologies after more than four decades in the industry, received and shares seven cheesemaking patents, mostly in cheese vat and cheese belt designs. He commissioned new equipment in more than 40 North American cheese plants. Yacoub’s career includes close to 20 years with Ecolab, five years at Koch Membrane Systems and 12 years at Hydrite Chemical Co. Yacoub provides technical and commercial support for Solecta, Inc. and is a membrane programs manager for Kelley Supply.

The Vanguard Award, which honors trailblazing cheesemakers and cheese manufacturing employees, also has two recipients: Roger Schroeder and Richard Wold. Before retiring this year as cheese production manager at Agropur’s Le Sueur, Minn., facility, Schroeder worked for the company for 50 years. Wold, a Wisconsin master cheesemaker, retired in 2015 after 43 years in the industry, during which he contributed to Falls Dairy, one of the first US cheese facilities to install “OO” vats that replaced open cheese vats in the 1970s. Wold served as cheese plant superintendent for Associated Milk Producers Inc. before retiring.

Dr. Vikram Mistry and Dr. Andy Novakovic became the latest Babcock Award honorees, chosen for their contributions in education or affiliate organizations that partner with dairy processors to innovate. Noted as a key contributor to the industry’s growth in South Dakota, Mistry retired from South Dakota State University this past July and now is professor emeritus after teaching and leading at the university for more than 35 years. His various contributions include dairy science research, instruction and mentoring. Novakovic serves as a professor of agricultural economics emeritus at Cornell University’s Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management. Currently reviewing the Federal Milk Marketing Orders and other matters for the US Department of Agriculture as a part-time senior economist, Novakovic’s work throughout his career focused on dairy foods, with his research covering topics that were meaningful to the dairy industry.

The award-winners will be introduced during WCMA’s recognition breakfast on April 18, 2024, as part of CheeseExpo, in Milwaukee. More information is available online at the event’s website.