Portable Cheese Making Training Module

2003 Annual Report for LNE02-155

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2002: $79,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2004
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $31,860.00
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Rick Bishop
Sullivan County Division of Planning

Portable Cheese Making Training Module


Developmental meetings with pilot farmers determined facility design with input from consultants and regulators. Trailer assembly began, and floors, walls, cooler, boiler and utilities installed by County AED and farmers to reduce costs. Plant was inspected, licensed and began Production / Instruction followed by Mozzarella, Ricotta, and Yogurt marketed each week in the NYC GREENMARKET, 4/2003.
Numerous inquiries regarding the “cheesemobile” were sent a packet with the design, equipment list, sources and costs. The Cooperative Extension, 3-County “One Day Dairy Tour” included a demonstration at the Tonjes Farm. The intense interest motivated Stebbins Engineering to begin designing “cheesemobiles” 12/2003.

Objectives/Performance Targets

The primary objective in this project was to introduce on-farm cheesemaking to small family dairy farmers as a way to improve net farm income.

Typical small family dairy farms do not have the capital needed to invest in a plant before having experimented with making cheese from their milk. The design, equipment and regulatory challenges for on-farm dairy processing are difficult and time consuming. Small batch cheese production is an art or skill that needs to be taught to a farmer, through hands-on instruction over a period of time. Ideally, this experimental cheese would be sold where customer feedback and market demands can be integrated into the on-farm cheesemaking strategies.

This project was publicly funded, designed, assembled, and provided with professional training to enable the farmers to overcome the above-mentioned challenges. The Sullivan County Division of Planning and Team Members are proud to report that the “cheesemobile” has met the primary objective of the project, on-time and within the proposed budget.

The performance targets for the project include developing a total of 4 value-added dairy enterprises in Sullivan County and 4-6 others in the region. We have 1 – TONJES FARM DAIRY, NY Plant # 32-8040 operational, and another J&E WEISSMANN DAIRY who is next in line for the “cheesemobile” and has already been co-training with the Instructors at Tonjes. An additional farmer PAT KEESLER has an artisinal cheese maker who has engineered a proposal for a cheese plant near the farm, and incorporated as THE COCHECTON CHEESE COMPANY.

Regional farmers who have received information on, and discussed the requirements / economics with us, visited the “cheesemobile”, or contacted Stebbins Engineering come from surrounding Counties, Lancaster Co. PA, as well as Schuyler, Yates, and Chenango Counties in NY. There are 2 Delaware County Farms (Bill Eckland visited on 12/22/03), with serious intentions or who have started pilot cheesemaking operations (Paul Dysenroth), due in part to this project.


The following were monumental accomplishments throughout the past 16 months:

1. Determined a course of action, with a list of products to be produced farms

2. Outlined equipment needed, then priced / procured equipment

3. Maintained constant regulatory input- Milk Control, Cornell, Ag & Markets

4. Assembled the facility and installed utilities and equipment

5. Obtained inspection and licensed facility as NY Plant # 36-8446

6. Began instruction and production of Mozzarella, Ricotta, Yogurt, & Tomme

7. Attended NY City Greenmarkets, direct-marketing cheese & serviced local stores

8. Began analysis of the economics of processing / selling each type of cheese

9. Extensive edu-outreach to dairy community with CCE and word-of-mouth

10. Facility analysis with Stebbins Engineering for a production-run of cheesemobiles

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

We have produced a packet containing the equipment layout, the budget for all purchases and the company contacts for the equipment and supplies. This packet is sent out to each farmer that inquires, it has proven to be extremely helpful and practical to new, start-up operations. The Division and our first 2 pilot farmers have participated in the formation of the New York State Cheesemakers Guild with a $26,462 grant from NYS Ag & Markets and cheese retailer donations.

When Kathy Biss, Scottish artisinal cheesemaker came to instruct in November she commented that the facility “was perfect for a farmer that wanted to give it a try and then be able to sell the cheeses that they make.”

Recent sampling and marketing negotiations with Formaggio Italian Cheese Specialties have stimulating planned expansion / construction of the Italian style cheesemaking at the Tonjes Farm. The J&E Weismann farm (2nd Stop) has already been approached by Rob Kaufelt from the prestigious MURRAY’S Cheese Store in Manhattan to develop a fresh cheese product line together in 2004.