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Transformed into the best
Editor's Note - This is first of a two-part
series about world-winning cheese made at the
Rogue Creamery in Central Point using milk from
the Klamath Basin. This week's story focuses on
where and how the milk is produced. Next week's
photo-story will examine the hand-milled cheese
by Lee Juillerat
It sometimes takes more than a year, but raw milk
from the dairy's 900 Holstein milking cows is
eventually transformed into cheese at the Rogue
Creamery in Central Point.
Earlier this year, the creamery's Rogue River Blue
Cheese was judged the world's best blue cheese for
2003 at the 16th annual World Cheese Awards in
London. Judges rated it better than cheeses from
all over the globe - England, France, Spain,
Italy, Denmark, Australia and elsewhere.
"The quality of milk is very important," says
David Gremmels, the Rogue Creamery's co-owner. "We
have to have excellent milk, fresh milk, to create
Over the years DeJong added land and cows. The
Bonanza View now spans 1,200 acres, with 900 acres
in alfalfa and wheat plus lesser amounts of oats
and peas. The milking cows are part of a larger
herd of 2,100.
"More frequent milkings are better for the
animal," says Arie, 42, who has been involved in
the dairy since he was a child and served as its
manager for more than 20 years.
When Elso launched the business he did the
milking. Now, with the never-ending operation, the
dairy averages 15 full-time employees. Some are
involved with the dairy cows and milking while
others handle the farm operations. The dairy
provides two-thirds of its own feed.
"It's definitely quite a process, and that's good.
There's got to be a criteria. It's a pretty
detailed process, but that's OK."
"That's one reason we transitioned into organic,"
says Arie, who estimates the dairy's cows eat
about 15,000 tons of feed annually - while also
producing large volumes of manure that's used as a
"We like it in principal," says Arie. "It works
A fourth business might be the dairy's fertilizer
operation. Manure from the cows is treated on the
farm's network of ponds. Some is composted and put
on fields, while other manure is mixed with water
and spread by overhead sprinkler systems.
The heart of the dairy is a dairy homesteaded in
the 1920s that was used during the Prohibition era
to also produce bootleg whiskey. Elso, who lives
in a house overlooking the ranch, gradually bought
neighboring property, including three different
small dairies. He had to retire from the dairy
because of health concerns, so Arie has been
actively involved and overseeing operations since
he was a teenager.
Just like Arie, the milking cows are busy and
At 5:30 each morning, about 7,000 gallons of raw
milk collected in the previous 24 hours is piped
into a Farmers Cooperative Creamery refrigerated
tankers and driven over the Cascades. Many days it
goes directly to the Rogue Creamery, where a team
of cheesemakers led by creamery co-owner Cary
Bryant are creating an expanding variety of
hand-milled blue, Cheddar and other cheeses.
Bryant and Gremmels are pleased with the Bonanza
View's milk. They recently concluded negotiations
to guarantee a continuing supply.
"We're outside. We run a business. We enjoy the
challenge, the variety," says Arie. "We put food
on the table."
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