Lindsey White, Vice President and co-owner of Torkelson Cheese Company in Lena, Ill., has been in the cheese business, well, forever.
“I didn’t grow up on a farm, I grew up in a cheese factory,” Lindsey said. “My parents actually brought me home from the hospital to a place they live in which was directly above a cheese factory, so I guess you can say I have been in the cheese business, literally, since day one.”
Lindsey and her husband, Jamie, are partners with Duane and Cheryl Torkelson and between the four of them, they manage every aspect of the business. Lindsey maintains the day-to-day financials of the business, including accounts payable, accounts receivable, banking and employee payroll.
Lindsey also serves as the quality director, which means she manages all outside third party, state and federal inspections, as well as all employee food safety training. She also handles all of Torkelson’s cheese, protein, cream and lactose buyers and works with farmers on their paperwork, de-lactose permeate feed schedules, quality issues, or any other issue of questions they may have.
Plus, she oversees all lab personnel, procedures and results.
“I love getting new lab equipment to play with,” Lindsey said. “For some reason I just like to see the data on our products. I have been told our labs are a bit overkill for our size plant, but hey, I think ensuring quality and consistency is what makes us great.”
Last year, Torkelson Cheese decided to expand their business to build a lactose drying facility. Lactose can be used in all kinds of confections, bakery products, infant formula and even for animal feed.
“In the dairy business, for all of us, margins are getting thinner and thinner,” Lindsey said. “We generally operate on the principal that if you are not growing, you are dying. For a cheese manufacturing facility our size, we know we need to take advantage of every potential income source leaving our plant.”
For Lindsey, the biggest reward is the quality product she and her employees produce everyday.
“At Torkelson Cheese quality really is our biggest concern,” Lindsey said. “I have two small children at home and we eat our cheese on a daily basis. I would never put something onto the market that I would not feed my own family. I do get offers from ingredient companies with all kind of crazy things that will boost yield, moisture, etc. But Torkelson Cheese uses all 100 percent natural ingredients. Could we make more money adding chemicals and preservatives? Yes, but who would want to eat that? I think, in the end, we know we are doing the absolute best that we can for our consumer. I understand that people work hard to earn their money. When they choose to spend it on dairy products that come from our plant, I’m elated. Those people that trust our cheese at their dinner table deserve the best possible quality that we can provide.”
Don’t forget to check out all the awesome blogs happening this month over at Prairie Farmer.
For the full Faces Behind Your Food Series, check out the links below:
- Intro: 30 Days
- Day 1: Managing…everything
- Day 2: Building Relationships
- Day 3: 50/50
- Day 4: Irons in the Fire
- Day 5: Loaded Up and Trucking
- Day 6: Variety is the Spice of Life
- Day 7: Beef. It’s what’s for dinner.
- Day 8: You have got to start somewhere.
- Day 9: The earth that calls me.
- Day 10: Teaching changes the way I look at things at home.
- Day 11: A Family Affair
- Day 12: Diversification.
- Day 13: Bigger is Better
- Day 14: Working for the Weekend
- Day 15: Three Generations of Pauling Brothers