Cooperation and Community

For decades, Wayne Peters and his wife, Irene, farmed and raised their family near Chaseburg, so he’d come to understand this little community. When it came to securing $750,000 to purchase, renovate and re-equip the creamery, it was a good thing the community also understood Wayne Peters. He was straightforward and true to his word, and the Bank of Stoddard provided financing for the little creamery mostly on his handshake. Wayne also put his hands — and considerable jackhammer skills — to the remodeling, along with his sons and Organic Valley’s maintenance crew.

Immediate popularity of the butter led to immediate acceleration of the production plan. Louise Hemstead, then chief operations officer, wrote in 2009 that the executive team had hoped in 1999 for a positive cash flow from the plant after two years, but the industrious crew got there in only 5 months! They were churning 25,000 pounds of butter per week in the autumn of 1999, up from their planned 15,000 pounds.

Today, Chaseburg churns out 30,000 pounds of butter every day, 365 days a year.

And we should recognize, even though there’s helpful equipment and computers these days, making butter is still hard work. Large machines must be loaded and unloaded with precision. Focusing on cleaning and quality at every moment is taxing, but people are there every day to make it happen. It’s a dance of extreme attention to detail, efficiency and commitment to quality.

Two men stand in the creamery next to a butter packaging machine and many partially filled shipping boxes.

Brent Roiland, left, one of our first buttermakers, and Wayne Peters are shown at Chaseburg Creamery’s 1999 grand opening.

When the Chaseburg Creamery first opened, Organic Valley expected to make 5 million pounds of milk (that’s more than 581,000 gallons) into butter each year, Leis said. Today, the plant uses 4.5 million pounds of milk every week.

To keep up, the creamery has seen many physical changes over the years. More and bigger silos, more efficient equipment, computerized processes and state-of-the-art milk quality testing to ensure the milk is top notch before it even enters the building.

But it all comes down to the nearly 50 employees who bring so much love and care and hard work to the daily grind … er, churn.

Because they’re working with a perishable product, teams have to be there every day (and night) of the year, including holidays. They switch shifts around so families can be together during some holidays.

But the group working together here in Chaseburg treat each other like a second family. Leis talked with a lilt of pride in his voice of the many times older workers with grown children have stepped in to take holiday shifts, allowing younger workers that magical time with their kids. “You don’t get those years back,” he said.

The best quality milk and an amazing recipe go a long way toward creating multiple-award-winning butter. But the real not-so-secret ingredient for Organic Valley butter is its people. Ask anyone at the plant how they — nestled in the remote valleys of Wisconsin’s Driftless region — make such fabulous butter, and you’ll hear them say, “Because we care.”

The information in this article was updated June 27, 2023, from an article that first appeared Nov. 25, 2019. Andrew Hohlfeld, Chaseburg Creamery production supervisor, provided the aerial photo of Chaseburg Creamery.

View of the front of the Chaseburg Creamery plant.

Organic Valley Chaseburg Creamery sits on the edge of tiny Chaseburg, Wisconsin, nestled in a valley not far from the Mississippi River.

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