A visit to the Marieke Gouda dairy operation
By Marv Kohlbeck
Some time ago I read an article about a Dutch enterprise in Thorp, which included an on-site dairy farm, milking parlor, cheese factory, retail store, and cafe.
Statistics indicate that Wisconsin continues to lead the nation in the production of cheese, and the state is well-known for its many outlets with wide selections of cheese.
Being a lover of most any crafted cheeses, I decided that the intriguing story of Dutch immigrants risking their investment money in such an operation in the USA fascinated me, and I put that location on my area tour list.
Recently, a friend of mine and I made arrangements to meet some Thorp friends at the Cafe DUTCHess for breakfast.
The meal itself was very satisfying, but to meet the owner, Marieke Penterman, and get a guided tour of the cheese factory, retail shop, entertainment center, milking parlor, and free-stall dairy barn was beyond our greatest expectations.
My friend and I experienced a tour of their clean and comfortable dairy cattle housing, the clean air and premises of the milking parlor, and the factory where the morning milk produced on their farm was being turned into Gouda cheese. The final phase was a view of the refrigerated room containing rows of stacked rounds of cheese going through the curing process.
Penterman, the driving force behind this venture, told us of her being born and raised on a dairy farm in Holland and a lifelong desire to own her own business related to agriculture. Her husband, Rolf, came to the USA 12 years ago to buy and operate a dairy farm. A year later she joined him for the establishment of their present facilities, which included the construction of the dairy housing barn, milking parlor, cheese factory, retail shop, and cafe.
As immigrants, their ideas and work ethic have proven their success, as evidenced by the many cheese-making awards that decorate the walls of their retail shop. Marieke has been a consistent U.S. and world champion winner of various varieties of Gouda cheese. My friend and I concluded that immigrants such as the Pentermans continue to make our country great.
The Pentermans are celebrating the 10th anniversary of their business this November.