Dairy Store preps for seasonal rush

· 4 min read

Dairy Store preps for seasonal rush

Jonathan Hnosko (left) and Andrew Donovan, a student employee, load a 25-pound block of Husker-N-Gold cheese into a bag that will be vacuum-sealed. The work, completed on Nov. 14, is believed to be the last slice of Dairy Store cheese production that will help fill holiday box orders. Hnosko said 1,000 gallons of milk were made to make the final 800 pound batch of Husker-N-Gold.
Troy Fedderson | University Communications
Jonathan Hnosko (left) and Andrew Donovan, a student employee, load a 25-pound block of Husker-N-Gold cheese into a bag that will be vacuum-sealed. The work, completed on Nov. 14, is believed to be the last slice of Dairy Store cheese production that will help fill holiday box orders. Hnosko said 1,000 gallons of milk were made to make the final 800 pound batch of Husker-N-Gold.

It’s the calm before the holiday storm at UNL’s Dairy Store.

Favored for its ice cream flavors in the summer, Dairy Store business heats up between Thanksgiving and Christmas as customers seek gift boxes filled with handmade cheeses and meats, locally sourced honey and prepackaged crackers. During the four-week rush, the store will sell nearly 3,200 gift boxes. That total is more than 90 percent percent of the 3,500 gift boxes the store sells annually.

“We hit the ground running the week after Thanksgiving,” said Kathy Vokoun, manager of the Dairy Store. “We’ve already started to get ready for the rush by filling our storage shelves with gift boxes. In December, we’ll have workers filling orders all day long.”

Prep work for the rush began months in advance as Jonathan Hnosko, manager of UNL’s Dairy Plant, and student workers started handcrafting and aging Dairy Store cheeses. The store offers seven regular and other specialty varieties — including New York cheddar with spiced cranberries, this year’s holiday-exclusive creation.

“We actually make more cheese than ice cream annually,” Hnosko said. “This year, we will make around 17,000 pounds of cheese and 15,000 pounds of ice cream. And, demand for cheese continues to grow. Next year will probably be the first time we will make cheese twice a month between February and September.”

Husker, a mild, white-colored cheese, is the most popular with more than 3,200 pounds produced annually. Husker-N-Gold, a yellow and white mix of Husker and Colby cheeses, ranks second with about 2,500 pounds crafted each year.

Students also help make the gift box meats, which are produced through the Animal Science department and sold in UNL’s Loeffel Meat Laboratory. Also, some of the honey offered through the Dairy Store is provided by UNL’s student-led Insect Science Club.

“We feel it’s important to use products made with the help of UNL student employees,” Vokoun said. “The work is a great learning experience for the students and customers like knowing that by buying these gift boxes, they are supporting UNL education.”

Overall, 14 gift box options (ranging in price from $13.99 to $56.99) are offered. The standard gift box selections include 10 options with different cheese/meat combinations and are delivered in a red box adorned with a silver academic “N.” The store also offers four Nebraska baskets, which come shrink wrapped in a handmade basket shaped like the Cornhusker State and filled with cheeses, meats and other items.

“We add the Nebraska baskets a few years ago,” Vokoun said. “They are a popular option as the basket makes a gift that can be used year round.”

The Dairy Store — which is associated with UNL’s Department of Food Science and Technology and the Food Processing Center — sells the gift boxes through the online marketplace and in its East Campus store. A complete list of gift box options is available online. The boxes can be shipped to any United States address.

“In my 25 years here, the number of gift boxes ordered has increased slightly,” Vokoun said. “We get orders from all over the nation, from alumni seeking items they remember eating in college to businesses that buy the boxes as gifts for customers and employees.

“It’s a crazy month, but I love every minute of it because we get the opportunity to provide great customer service and help others with their holiday celebrations.”

A Nebraska basket packaged and ready for purchase at the UNL Dairy Store. Box and basket orders can be completed online or at the Dairy Store.
Troy Fedderson | University Communications
A Nebraska basket packaged and ready for purchase at the UNL Dairy Store. Box and basket orders can be completed online or at the Dairy Store.
Andrew Donovan, a student employee at the UNL Dairy Store, removes aluminum containers filled with 25-pound blocks of cheese.
Troy Fedderson | University Communications
Andrew Donovan, a student employee at the UNL Dairy Store, removes aluminum containers filled with 25-pound blocks of cheese.

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