Twenty-three years ago, a dairy power couple founded Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese when George Crave decided he and his brothers needed to add value to their milk.
“We pumped our first milk underground directly to our cheese factory in 2002,” Debbie Crave, Co-Founder, shared. Together, with her marketing experience and George’s farming background, Crave Cheese was born. “We are happy to share that we have 11 full-time family members working in the business today, and this was our goal when we first started.”
Debbie and George have been active in the dairy and cheese industry throughout their careers, George having begun his career as a dairy farmer and then going on to sit on many boards, panels, and associations, most recently the National Dairy Board.
Debbie started her career as the 1981-1982 Alice in Dairyland before working in marketing positions at the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board (today’s Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin) and the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture.
“Together they have used their skill sets to build and elevate our brand to represent not only the cheese industry, but also the dairy and farming industries,” daughter Roseanne Crave, Sales and Marketing Manager, said. “They have instilled values of respect, hard work, and curiosity in their children, staff, and other family members and because of this we know our company has a strong foundation to grow from.”
Now, together George and Debbie look to their next adventure—retirement.
“By planning ahead and thinking about the reality of the future, we have been able to plan and work with a professional succession planning coach to give our company a smooth transition. New leaders have risen alongside us in the business and are now prepared to continue to propel it. We are excited to see our sons, daughter, niece, and nephews continue growing professionally,” Debbie reflected. “We look forward to our brand growing with our current and new customer base.”
Since starting this dairy journey, she shared how the industry has changed over the years through consumer and buyer behavior. Today, many people eat to experience, and that, Debbie said, is why charcuterieboards and similar trends are so popular for social gatherings and why cheese has grown to be a fun snack for both children and adults.
“Our cheeses are very versatile and can be used in just about any cuisine as an everyday ingredient or be elevated for use in a foodie dish,” she observed, leading into her favorite part of looking back over hers and George’s careers. “We are most proud of the business our family has built. We are a strong family company, a successful employer, and a productive business for our community and industry. We know that our businesses were ahead of the curve in a lot of innovative ways, including our anaerobic methane digesters and rotary milking parlor both adding to the efficiencies and sustainability of the company. We are also proud farmers, and like to share the story of modern agriculture with consumers.”
It is a story with a strong foundation that will continue to flourish as its parents begin a new chapter. A heartfelt congratulations to Debbie and George on the success of their family-fueled endeavor and a retirement well-earned!