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A celebration of a dream come true

By Staff | Dec 1, 2008

State of the art cheese, whey plant powered up on Nov. 4By RENAE VANDER SCHAAFFarm News staff writerHULL- Less than a year ago, Shep and Natalie Ysselstein took possession of an empty warehouse in Hull. Eleven months later they hosted a grand opening Saturday to celebrate a ribbon-cutting ceremony.An estimated 4,000 people attended and took the tour of the new facility. Green Meadows Foods began the process of producing cheese on Nov. 4.The empty warehouse was a major step in transforming a longtime dream into reality. The owners of a 7,000-cow dairy near Rock Valley, the Ysselsteins saw a need for more milk processors in the U.S. I-29 corridor. The dairy industry, once the main stay of many farms in the region, was near extinction less than a decade ago after expanding into other regions – New Mexico, California and Texas.“No money was being spent on infrastructure,” said Steve Sneer of Land O’ Lakes. “The industry was dwindling away.” Milk producers, community development leaders and others joined together to change the tide.The result has been a regeneration of the dairy industry, stronger and more stable than ever. The region that includes Southwest Minnesota, Northwest Iowa, Southeast South Dakota and Northeast Nebraska has seen phenomenal growth with new dairies starting up, Smith said, including existing dairies expanding and dairies relocating to the area. More processing was needed to sustain that growth.With this in mind, the Ysselsteins saw this as a time to act on Shep’s desire to manufacture cheese and whey products. “The dairy industry has a lot to offer,” said Ysselstein. “It has been a team effort to get the plant up and going. I am pretty humbled to have this opportunity to help provide a nutritional food.”The plant recently completed Phase 1 of its development plan. At this stage 42 semi loads of milk are needed daily to produce seven semi loads of cheese and four semi loads of whey. That is enough to provide 8 to 10 million people daily with one serving of dairy. Work on Phase II has begun. Once completed the plant will require 5 million pounds of milk daily. Possibly creating the need for 40,000 more dairy cows in the region. A boost for local producers as Green Meadows plans to draw milk from dairy farms within a 100-mile radius.An economic study of the contribution of Green Meadows was done by Daniel Otto and John Lawrence, ISU Extension economists. Many factors were considered in the studies, beginning with the actual dairies. Each dairy requires feed, veterinary supplies, operating supplies and labor.Green Meadows Foods has a work force of 85 at its beginning. That number will increase to 130 when Phase II is implemented. According to the study the additional workers and families in a community can increase membership and add viability to local schools, organizations and institutions.As for dollar amounts the study indicates an estimated $437 million economic impact from Phase I. Green Meadows Foods is positioned to be one of the top cheese producers in the U.S.“It is a time to celebrate capitalizing of a dream that fits into an economy of cheese and whey that is growing,” said Tim Czmowski, the plant’s general manager.All the cheese that will be produced has been sold to Masters Gallery Foods in Plymouth, Wisc. That facility has also experienced an 80,000-square-foot expansion in anticipation of Green Meadows cheese production. “We are excited about buying cheese from the Midwest,” said Dennis Kasuboski, vice president of industrial sales for Masters Gallery. “The economy may be suffering, but the demand for cheese continues to grow.”High-end restaurants may have seen a reduction in customers, but people are still eating out. They are choosing tacos, pizzas and cheese burgers.Iowans won’t be finding Masters Gallery cheese products per se on their grocery stores shelves, however. The cheese it markets is generally sold as a shredded or chunked product under private labels.Approximately 50 percent is sold to a cheese use for further processing in various food brands. Retail takes up 25 percent in local grocery store brands across the nation. The remaining 25 percent is sold to food service for use in restaurants.Dairying has been a part of the Ysselsteins’ heritage for many generations. To commemorate the first milk brought into the plant on Nov. 3 was put into a cream can his father used in The Netherlands.It was transported from the dairy on an old-fashioned cart driven by Friesland draft horses, Ysselstein had brought in from Friesland, a province of The Netherlands several years ago.Contact Renae Vander Schaaf at renaefarmnews@gmail.com.

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