Hilltopper Creamery wins multiple blue ribbons and gold medal awards at Kentucky State Fair
- Lacey DiPietro-Bell
- Friday, October 7th, 2022
WKU’s Hilltopper Creamery secured four blue ribbons and four gold medals at the 2022 Kentucky State Fair.
This year was the first time the Creamery submitted entries into the Kentucky State Fair dairy competition since their inaugural visit in 2019. In 2019, the Hilltopper Creamery earned a ribbon in every class entered and brought home six blue ribbons and one gold medal award.
“We are proud to announce the foundation of excellence continues today,” Nikki Roof, Creamery Technician, said about their 2022 visit to the Fair.
The Hilltopper Creamery strives to cultivate a hands-on educational experience in dairy processing and dairy production with an emphasis on natural ingredients and maintaining strict food quality standards. The Creamery is currently averaging 250 lbs. of cheese each month and hopes to see that number grow. This cheese, along with freezer beef, and fresh produce are available for purchase at the WKU Farm Market, the SOKY Marketplace, and online (offering nationwide shipping and free local delivery on Fridays).
Gary Beu, who came to WKU with experience in farming and cheese-making is credited with getting the Hilltopper Creamery operational in 2017. The first batch of cheese made alongside students was produced in April of 2017.
The hardships of 2020 and 2021 hit hard at Hilltopper Creamery. Beu spent much of late 2020 in and out of the hospital, and because of his health, the last batch of cheese was produced on October 30, 2020. Beu passed away in January of 2021.
Almost a year after the last batch of cheese was produced, Roof was hired as the Creamery Technician. She is a WKU alumna from the Biology and Chemistry departments with a concentration in Pre-Veterinary Sciences. After developing a love for the Agriculture and Food Sciences courses required for the Pre-Veterinary concentration, Roof added an Animal Science minor.
“It is funny to admit now that cheese and I were not friends at first,” Roof said. She said she experienced many failures before developing her first batch of successful cheese curds. Roof was able to collaborate with the Kentucky cheese community to get guidance and support. “With a foundation in Gary’s records, guidance from the dairy and cheese communities, and many hours shared with Gary’s long-term friend and colleague Dr. Richard Gelderman, we were able to successfully make each of the creamery’s available varieties this summer.”
Much of November 2021-April 2022 consisted of professional development to gain the licensure and permits required to re-open production. Just two days after passing state inspection, the creamery produced its first batch of cheese in Gary’s absence on May 4, 2022.
“Reflecting on the last five and a half years is a humbling reminder of the many triumphs and hardships which led us to where we are today. It has also shaped our goals for the future. The monumental loss of Gary weighs greatly on us as we strive to assume the mantle and make Gary proud,” Roof said.
The WKU Farm Market and Creamery was selected for a rebranding project for advertising instructor Kelley Coppinger’s AD 310: Visual Concepts in Advertising course. Sarah Walkup, a Visual Arts junior, is spearheading the project with newly designed logos, signage, product labels, packaging, and other marketing materials.
The WKU Farm Market and Creamery offers unique opportunities for students, faculty, staff, and the public to access locally produced goods. All of the product is grown or made by WKU students. “We plan to continue expanding valuable hands-on-learning opportunities for our students and hope to make future announcements about additional opportunities to grow food at the farm,” Roof said.
The Hilltopper Creamery’s winning cheese varieties from the 2022 Kentucky State Fair included fresh cheese curds, Colby, mild cheddar, and jalapeño pepper jack.
For more information about the WKU Farm Market or Hilltopper Creamery, contact Nikki Roof, firstname.lastname@example.org.