Hilltopper Creamery gives students a chance to create dairy delights

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – Western Kentucky University is known for a lot of various things, but their agricultural department isn’t one that springs to mind.

But thanks to a recently started program, students are churning up attention to something unfamiliar to most.

The art of cheese-making at the Hilltopper Creamery.

“We made our first cheese April 19 of 2017,” said Cheese Plant Manager Gary Beu.

The creamery, which is completely student-run under the supervision of Beu, churns out 13 different kinds of cheese daily. From gouda, to bacon cheddar, to pepper jack, to mozzarella, there’s no shortage of dairy delights being created at this creamery.

“I have a lot of people, professors, say well Gary, on days you’re not making cheese, what do you do,” Beu said. “Come and follow us around and you’ll see every day we’re busy.”

“It’s a lot more complicated that I first realized,” added Wyatt Lucas, a WKU graduate student who’s doing his work-study program at the Hilltopper Creamery. “Then I cam in, saw it done, and there’s a lot into it.”

Beu said it takes about 12 hours to make the cheese, but that’s only the first phase of a multi-phase process.

“Then the cheese goes in an aging room and it’s in there for a minimum of 60 days,” he added.

After the aging process is complete, the students will prep the cheese by cutting it into consumer-sized blocks, package it, and then sell it. The entire idea behind the creamery is that, from start to finish, WKU students–seven to be exact–do everything involved in the cheese-making production. Even better yet, all the ingredients they use from the WKU farm which is right next door.

“We can point over and say well the cows are right over there,” said Lucas. “That’s where the milk comes from then it comes right in here. All the ingredients come from right around in here.”

“Students milk cows. Students feed cows. They help grow the feed for the cows and help milk em and put them in a tank,” Beu said, with a grin across his face. “Then I go get it.”

Most students never envisioned themselves being involved in dairy production, but those who have say it’s been a very “gouda” experience.

“To be able to see a final product actually be sold for a profit that goes back to the university is pretty cool,” Lucas said.

The Hilltopper Creamery is located off of Nashville Road in Bowling Green.