The Nice Man Cometh
By Jeanne Carpenter • photography by Michael Krakora
Combining his environmental ethos with quality cheesemaking and good ol’ neighborliness, Bob Wills of Cedar Grove Cheese redefines business-as-usual.
It’s not often that you meet a cheesemaker who has earned a Ph.D. in economics as well as a law degree from the
University of Wisconsin and who once worked for the U.S. senator who founded Earth Day.
Then again, Bob Wills is not your average cheesemaker. Wills, now 54, didn’t start making cheese until he was 34. In fact, the thought never crossed his mind until the day he met Beth Nachreiner, whose parents happened to own Cedar Grove Cheese, a small creamery in southwest Wisconsin. The pair met while Wills was working as an economist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Nachreiner was working in Wisconsin as a political advisor. Three years after getting married, the couple took over her retiring parents’ cheese factory in the tiny town of Plain, and Wills left behind a promising academic career as a research associate at the University of Wisconsin.
He hasn’t looked back.