A local company with a global footprint
By Matthieu Vollmer
MARSHFIELD — Nasonville Dairy has expanded operations locally and sales globally over the past few years, contributing to Marshfield’s economic development in a sustainable fashion like many other businesses in the agriculture industry.
“A lot of things are tied to agriculture. We won’t see peaks and lows like others areas, like Silicon Valley, but we are going to see a stable economy. Our role is to expand on the sale of cheese to Wisconsin and other parts of the world,” said Ken Heiman, co-owner of Nasonville Dairy, when asked about his business’ role in economic development.
Heiman has been a licensed cheese-maker for 47 years and a master cheese-maker for nine years. He is one of only 54 master cheese-makers in the state. His father was also a cheese-maker, and his brothers and sons are also in the cheese-making business.
The dairy averages $140 million in sales per year and employs roughly 100 local people. It opened in 1885, was purchased by Ken’s family in 1965, and is now co-owned by Ken and his brothers Kim and Kelvin Heiman.
“They really support the community. Ken provides a huge amount of enjoyment to a lot of people. He’s an incredible supporter of this community,” said Paul Meier, an area resident since 1985 and owner of the Blue Heron Brew Pub. Meier has been a customer of Nasonville Dairy for about 10 years. He purchases cheese curds directly from the dairy and orders feta from a Nasonville distributor.
Over the past three years, Nasonville Dairy has expanded sales on a national and global scale with over 94 percent of the products leaving Wisconsin. The business sells its cheeses in every mainland state and also in China, South Korea, Canada, the British Virgin Islands, and Chile. Meanwhile, Nasonville Dairy continues to perfect its existing product line. Nasonville makes 18 percent of all feta cheese produced in the U.S.
“We are trying to do a better job with the products we already make,” said Ken. In the past three years, Nasonville has improved its Marshfield facility by adding new coolers, curing rooms, locker rooms, office buildings, and packaging areas, resulting in the hire of roughly 30 additional employees.
Despite major growth, the business remains local. “Everything we do is local. The milk is all local. Our responsibility is to return that (to the local community). The local area has been very good to us,” said Ken.
Best selling items include pizza cheese, feta cheese, and cheddar. Eighty-eight percent of the business’ gross sales are comprised of cheese sales, and the remaining 12 percent come from the sale of cream, whey protein, and lactose. The company makes 35 different types of cheese, although Wisconsin as a whole makes 630 different types of cheese and provides the U.S. with over 50 percent of its entire cheese supply.
“We have the ability to create new products. We’ve never been afraid of trying something new and different,” said Ken.
“I like Ken. Ken’s down working on the floor with other employees. He’s incredibly accessible, and it’s a family-run business. I trust him, and know him and his family well. His kids grew up with my kids,” said Meier. He explained that if an employee calls in sick, Ken will fill the person’s spot.
Nasonville supports many area charitable and philanthropic organizations including the FFA, 4H, Marshfield Clinic, Ministry Health Care, House of the Dove, and the American Cancer Society, among others.
When asked about his customer service philosophy, Ken replied, “We want the customer to be happy with what they buy and to remember what they buy. It comes down to a quality issue.” He recommended that consumers compare his to cheese to what is out there.
“Go to the cheese store. They have a huge selection. They have all their kinds of cheeses there,” said Meier. He also recommended stopping by Weber’s Farm Store, run by Ken’s wife, to find some of their cheeses.
Ken also supports dairy and cheese education. He serves on the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, and his brother Kim serves on the Wisconsin Cheese Marketers Board.
Nasonville Dairy is located at 10898 Highway 10 outside Marshfield. For more information visit nasonvilledairy.com or call 715-676-2177. Store hours are Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.