Marieke Penterman’s love of cheese and longing for the traditional Dutch Gouda she’d grown up with, led her to start Marieke Gouda in Thorp, WI, with her husband Rolf and their five children.
Marieke was born and raised in the Netherland’s on her family’s 60-cow dairy farm, where she nurtured her passion for cows and farming. After obtaining her degree in Dairy Business, Marieke started working as a farm inspector before following her future husband, Rolf Penterman, to Thorp, WI, where he had started a 350-cow dairy in 2002.
While Marieke loved the dairy, she missed the Dutch Gouda from home and decided to start her own business. “I didn’t have any cheesemaking experience in the Netherlands,” she says. “I was just missing the Gouda from home and I really wanted to start my own business by the time I turned 30 – darn milestones!” Marieke earned her Wisconsin cheese-making license and worked with a local cheesemaker, while also making trips to Holland to train with two different cheesemakers there as well.
In 2007, only four months after making her first batch of Gouda in Wisconsin, Marieke received a Golden Award at the US Cheese Championships. Since then Marieke has won over 150 National and International Awards for her products, including the US Grand Champion Award in 2013 for her 6-9 month Plain Mature Gouda – the most prestigious award to date. Additionally, Marieke Gouda was nominated for “Best Cheese” in the US in 2013, which allowed them to obtain their green cards that year, via the extraordinary ability route!
In 2014, Penterman Farms moved to their current location along Highway 29, just south of the Thorp. There the family milks 370 cows, 3X per day, and runs about 420 head in total. The “Gouda Girls” consist of half Holstein cows, both B&W and R&W, a quarter Brown Swiss, and a quarter crossbred between Holstein and Swiss. The herd consistently achieves a 90 lb average, without the use of BST, and enjoys a comfortable freestall barn complete with rotating cow brushes, sprinkler systems and fans for hot summer months. “We pride ourselves on cow comfort,” says Marieke. “We treat our cows well and in turn they provide full-flavored consistent milk, perfect for cheese.” The milk is piped from the barn to the cheese factory and the raw milk cheese is then made within 5 hours of the milk arriving in the plant, providing the ultimate freshness.
Today, in true Farmstead fashion, there is a store and a café in addition to the farm and creamery. The store is home to all of the Marieke Gouda products as well as other types of locally grown food and typical products that the family imports from Holland. The store is also equipped with several viewing windows, so visitors can see the cheese making process first-hand. The café, aptly named Café DUTCHess, is open from Monday to Saturday for breakfast and daily lunch specials and also serves ice cream and other chocolate treats. Tours of the farm and facilities happen throughout the summer and guests enjoy the parlor viewing area on a regular basis to see the “Gouda Girls” in action. Marieke Gouda also hosts tours for school groups, and their large upstairs conference room can be rented for private parties and events.
Marieke admits that coming up with the capital to make this dream a reality was her biggest challenge at the beginning, but credits her husband, their children, and the incredible staff at the dairy and the creamery for supporting her in this “crazy, cheesy adventure.” The experience of making traditional Gouda in Wisconsin has been incredibly rewarding according to Marieke, who says, “my team is incredible, and I’ve developed a great network of people through this business.”
With product in over 400 stores across the United States, from grocery stores to specialty shops, there’s a good chance you can find Marieke Gouda near you, otherwise online ordering is available. Marieke Gouda brings the traditional Dutch Gouda experience and taste into the heart of America’s Dairyland and across the country.