By Kelsie Hoitomt
CONNORSVILLE — June Dairy Month is celebrated annually in honor of the Wisconsin dairy industry and that is just what Bolen Vale Cheese represents: farming and cheese.
Named respectively from the nearby Bolen Creek and then Vale means Valley, Bolen Vale Cheese opened its doors in 2004 after Mark and Renee Bartz decided to embark on a new endeavor.
Prior to opening the cheese store, Mark had bought the farm where they currently reside in 1975 with 24 cows and 200 acres of land.
The couple married in 1985 and raised a family of their own with five children; Jason, Justin, Stewart, Tessa and Emily.
The farm quickly grew with a bigger silo, more cows and more land with over 350 acres now used to grow hay, corn and soy beans. Most of the crops are kept internally, but any extra is sold.
The 50 plus dairy cows produce around 400 gallons of milk, which is hauled off the farm almost daily by ConAgra for Swiss Miss products.
While Mark ran the farm, Renee worked along side Mark and worked a season down the road at the old Connorsville Co-op Creamery.
She really enjoyed her job and the local support the creamery had so when it closed in 2004, she and Mark decided to open up their own business.
What once was an attached garage has since been added onto and was further expanded in the first year with the help of their sons, Jason and Justin, who are construction workers.
There cheese variety ranges from salsa flavored curds to ghost jalapeno blocks of cheese as well as your basic white and yellow curds and even blueberry cheddar.
There are over 60 kinds of cheese that is sold at Bolen Vale and it comes from all over the state of Wisconsin from Thorp to Grantsburg, Ellsworth, Madison and more. Every product is grown, produced and made specifically in Wisconsin.
“We have two distributors that come in once or twice a week and they drop off the cheese. I only order just what is needed so everything stays fresh that way,” explained Renee.
Along with the products the distributors bring, neighbors also bring in their own goods including honey, maple syrup, lamb and goat meat and homemade crafts like quilts and books.
Also available in the store is ice cream from Cedar Crest, Farmer to Farmer Coffee, pizzas, bulk spices, baking supplies and other grocery items like milk, crackers and canned foods.
Renee supplies all of these goods so people can continue to buy locally, which the Bartzes believe is a huge concept that should be supported.
Highway 64 also provides them with a steady amount of business as people travel to their cabins or seasonal homes.
“I used to hate the highway when my children were young, but now it truly is a blessing,” shared Renee.
The Bolen Vale name is not only known locally, but world wide as their products have been shipped to every state in the United States including Hawaii, Alaska and the Virgin Islands. Some products have even gone as far as Afghanistan to our military.
The Bartzes keep a steady stream of orders going in and out through the help of their Bolen Vale Cheese website as well as eBay.
Besides the store, the couple keeps themselves busy with farm tours, which are given to area schools including Clayton and Boyceville several times throughout the year. Students get to climb on the tractors, pet the calves, view the bulk tank and see every other aspect to the farming world.
Mark and Renee enjoy what they are doing and see no end to it any time real soon. When retirement does near, their son Stewart looks to take over the family farm as he already has several cattle in the barn and some land bought.