Newspaper article MinnPost.com

Big Cheese: Bongards' Creameries in Carver County among the Largest Cheese-Making Plants in the World

Newspaper article MinnPost.com

Big Cheese: Bongards' Creameries in Carver County among the Largest Cheese-Making Plants in the World

Article excerpt

Bongards' Creameries began as a small local creamery, helping farmers to process their milk. Since its beginning in 1908, it has grown to include satellite factories in Perham and Humboldt, Tennessee. It has also increased its range of products to include cheese and whey. In the twenty-first century, Bongards' Creameries is among the largest cheese-making plants in the world.

The Carver County site where Bongards' Creameries is located once held a skimming station. This structure was destroyed in 1908. Soon after, a group of local farmers got together to form a new cooperative (coop) creamery. They began construction on a twenty- six by one hundred foot creamery building in November of 1908.

This new coop creamery opened its doors in February of 1909. Fred W. Hedtke, who had helped to operate the former skimming station, was hired as chief butter maker and manager. He held that position for the next thirty years, until heart trouble forced him into retirement in June 1938.

When Fred Hedtke retired, Burnell E. (Jack) Budahn became plant manager. He would hold this position for the next fifty years. This stable, long-term management helped Bongards' Creamery prosper and become a dairy industry leader.

Bongards' Creameries started with making butter in 1909. In 1942, the factory began producing natural (unprocessed) cheese. Whey products, such as whey powder, were added in 1945. Processed cheese manufacturing was added to the product line in 1976. Although cheese and whey are still made in the early twenty-first century, butter making was discontinued around the 1970s, when it was decided it cost too much to replace the equipment needed relative to the amount of butter being sold. In the early days, all coop members took turns working in the factory to make these products, until expansion and success created the need for the coop to hire permanent factory workers.

In 1942, Bongards' Creameries expanded for the first time. The expansion included an office, laboratory, cheese-making room, and a new refrigerated storeroom. In 1949, the creamery expanded again, making Bongards' Creameries one of the largest cheese factories in the world. …

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