Receiving its first major renovation in 51 years, the dairy microbiology building was dedicated as the Alfred Dairy Science Hall in October 2011. It is home to the Department of Dairy and Food Science.
The building was dedicated in honor of the late Alfred Nef and Alfred Gonzenbach, two Swiss immigrants who founded Valley Queen Cheese Factory in Milbank, S.D.
Alfred Gonzenbach was a native of the village Roggwil in the Canton of Thurgau in Switzerland. It was there that he completed a two-year apprenticeship in the art of cheese making. He brought his skill to the United States when he immigrated to Wisconsin in 1924.
Following several job opportunities, including employment with a dairy that produced “certified milk” for hospitals, he secured a position as a cheese maker for J.L> Kraft in Antigo, Wisconsin. There he met and worked with Alfred Nef.
Alfred Nef was born and raised in the village of Urnasch in northeastern Switzerland, only 2 miles from the home of Alfred Gonzenbach. Alfred’s father had a small textile business, but Alfred wanted to be involved in agriculture and spent two winters at an agricultural college in the Canto of Bern. He primarily worked on famrs in Switzerland over a period of four years. His last farm job was near Herisau, where he also met his future wife. He immigrated to the United States in 1924 and had numerous different jobs in southern Wisconsin. Then one day he went to work for a Swiss cheesemaker and cheesemaking became his vocation and career.
His future wife finally came to the U.S. in September of 1928 and they were married in New York City. Within six months they were in Milbank, South Dakota, to stay and make cheese and raise a family.
Together Alfred Gonzenbach and Alfred Nef set out to live the American dream of owning their own business. They first began in a small factory in western Wisconsin. Then, in search of an opportunity in Montana. Alfred Gonzenbach’s stop in Milbank, South Dakota, to fill his car with gas ended in an invitation from the “town fathers” to settle here. It looked promising so he returned with Alfred Ned and they agreed to move their factory to South Dakota.
In March 1929 the Alfreds founded Valley Queen Cheese Factory in Milbank. From its humble beginnings it has grown and prospered to become a major cheese manufacturing plant and a market for mild produced in South Dakota and surrounding areas.
Mailing Address:1224 Medary Avenue
Brookings, SD 57007