The cheesemakers of Associated Milk Producers Inc. (AMPI) are bringing home the coveted Chairman’s Trophy following the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) Championship Cheese Contest. A hand-crafted Parmesan made at the cooperative’s plant in Hoven, S.D., was named best of class in the Italian division, AMPI said, and received the distinction of the contest’s best overall entry.

“Making award-worthy cheese is the daily standard at AMPI,” said Kevin Hageman, a veteran hard Italian-style cheesemaker who manages the plant where the champion Parmesan was produced. “We don’t make special cheese for contests. This is the quality of product we’re making every day. Our skilled cheesemakers use high-quality milk from AMPI member farms to create superior artisan cheese.”

The South Dakota plant specializes in making 22-pound wheels of Parmesan, Asiago and Romano.

In addition to the competition’s highest recognition, AMPI cheesemakers earned four additional awards at the contest, which was held in conjunction with NMPF’s joint annual meeting with the United Dairy Industry Association and National Dairy Promotion and Research Board in New Orleans. A total of 237 entries from cooperatives across the country were submitted for this year's contest.