Wastewater treatment system may fuel Pearl Valley Cheese future

FRESNO, Ohio — A Swiss immigrant came to the United States with a dream and 81 years later — the dream continues.

Pearl Valley Cheese was founded in 1928 by Ernest Stalder, a Swiss immigrant. He and his wife, Gertrude, began by making one 200-pound Swiss cheese wheel per day. Today, the company makes about 20,000 pounds each day, five days a week.

Pearl Valley Cheese in Fresno, Ohio, makes and markets a variety of award-winning cheeses and cheese products.

Recent improvements

Most recently, Pearl Valley Cheese has been working to improve its products and services to both its wholesale and retail customers. Particularly popular are the “Deli-Horn” line of Colby cheese products and the Deli Line of Colby products available in 12-ounce sealed packs.

A fundraising program has also been developed for 4-H, FFA, church and nonprofit community groups.

Economic downturn. The dramatic drop in the market prices of dairy products began in the fall of 2008 at a time when Pearl Valley Cheese typically experiences the strongest period of sales. However, the cheese producer has managed to find a silver lining in the mix.

The wholesale prices for cheese have dropped between 30 percent and 40 percent since November. However, the other costs of cheesemaking have not fallen, making it a turbulent time for the cheese market.

The bright side is the lower wholesale prices have given grocery stores an incentive to market cheese in their deli-cases more aggressively, which resulted in a higher volume of sales. This has also increased cheese production by about 10 percent in the first four months of 2009 because consumers are spending a higher percentage of their food dollars in the grocery stores and less in restaurants.

Future projects

Pearl Valley Cheese is presently exploring the possibility of a wastewater treatment system that could be the first step toward future plant expansion projects.

Anaerobic digestion technology now makes it possible for wastewater from the plant to be converted into usable bio-gas that can be used to fuel the boilers for cheesemaking and wash-up. It is planned that the effluent from the digester will be piped to Fresno and then to West Lafayette for final treatment at the village’s wastewater plant.

Estimates show the volume of the gas generated will amount to between 50-90 percent of the plant’s natural gas requirements. The project combines efforts to use a renewable environmentally friendly fuel source and reduce the risk of environmental contamination from the currently employed land application methods for water disposal.

Pearl Valley Cheese is located at 54760 TR 90 in Fresno, Ohio, 6 miles south of Baltic on state Route 93. The store is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Call 740-545-6002 for more information and details about their 80th anniversary specials.

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