The dairy farmers of the Paoli Cheese Factory Association pose for a photo in front of their delivery truck

Our Story

Our little factory on the Sugar River has witnessed more than a century of change in Wisconsin's dairy industry.


Dairy Farmers Unite

In 1888, a group of dairy farmers in Paoli, Wisconsin, banded together to build their community a cheese factory. They formed a cooperative called the Paoli Cheese Factory Association and constructed a modern factory on the banks of the Sugar River.

Historic map of Paoli with Cheese Factory location
Newspaper clipping about the new creamery at Paoli in 1888


The Swiss Cheesemaker

The little factory along the Sugar River adapted to changing times by making different cheeses and butters. In 1932, they hired famed Swiss cheesemaker, Otto Thalmann. Otto oversaw company operations for nearly a quarter century and made the factory known statewide. In those days, the factory was known by various names: The Paoli Cooperative Dairy Company, The Paoli Creamery, and The Paoli Co-op Creamery.

Otto Thalmann, the Swiss cheesemaker Paoli Creamery Company statement for stockholders in 1938
News clipping of Wisconsin farmer delivering milk used for butter to Paoli Creamery Co-op Creamery crew poses for a picture in front of Paoli Dairy Company truck


“Chicago Milk”

After World War II, the factory expanded once again to process Grade A Fluid Milk—also called “Chicago Milk.” This created the opportunity for local dairy farmers to sell their milk to thirsty Chicago customers. At this time, the Paoli Creamery was one of the largest dairy factories in the state.

Vintage packaging for Paoli brand creamery butter Capital Times newspaper front page with headline about Paoli Creamery expansion in 1952
Proposal document for Paoli Creamery expansion plans filed in Dane county


Pabst Acquires Creamery

In 1955, the Pabst Company acquired the company and its building. (Yes, that Pabst company.) Pabst expanded the company by helping local dairy farmers transition from canned milk to bulk milk deliveries. In its heyday of operations under the Pabst Company, the factory bought milk from nearly 300 dairy farmers.

Vintage sign with cow illustration declaring farm owner a producer for Pabst Farms Joe Sarbacker stands next to road sign signifying his new farm on highway 69
Newspaper clipping of truck filling up at the milk house


The Farm Crisis

The consolidation of the dairy industry and the farm crisis was the death knell for the factory. The factory couldn't keep up with Wisconsin's rapidly-changing and rapidly-industrializing dairy industry. After nearly 100 years in continuous operation, Pabst closed the doors of its Paoli facility in 1980.

Douglas Ray holds Pabst Producer sign he'll never use as dairy farms shutter
Capital Times newspaper story about the closing of dairy plant irking local dairy farmers


Restoring a Working Dairy

In 2021, a group of local entrepreneurs re-formed the Paoli Cheese Factory Association to preserve this amazing piece of Wisconsin heritage. They purchased the building and received approval for a listing on the National and State Registers of Historic Places.

Seven Acre Dairy Company was born.

The vision for Seven Acre Dairy Company includes continuing the building's legacy and heritage of dairy production by bringing back a working dairy to make artisanal ice cream, butter, and cheese created from local milk. Seven Acre Dairy Company will also feature a restaurant, dairy cafe, and boutique hotel inspired by the region's dairy heritage and natural landscape.

We look forward to welcoming you in fall 2022!