Cache Valley not only has the cows, but it also has manufacturing and processing plants that use the milk.
Permanent creameries and cheese plants began appearing in Cache Valley communities by the late 1880s, notes Robert Parson, archivist at Utah State University.
One of the major cheese plants was erected in Wellsville in 1889 by Lorenzo Hansen. "Over the next decade, Hansen would build three additional processing plants at Millville, Logan and Hyde Park. In 1904, he began concentrating on the Logan plant and converted it to the production of condensed milk."
Condensed milk would become a popular product in the valley. Another plant was started in Richmond by Marriner W. Merrill. This one was later consolidated with others and enlarged by an entrepreneur from back East to become the Sego Milk Factory, the largest such plant west of the Mississippi River.
By the 1920s, says Parson, Cache Valley had developed quite a reputation for dairy manufacture. The Wellsville plant became Morning Milk Company and then was absorbed by the Carnation company after World War II. By 1950, the Sego Milk plant in Richmond was shipping more than 38 million cans of evaporated milk annually.
"There are still a lot of people around who prefer the taste of evaporated milk," he says. They don't have quite as many fond memories about the non-fat powdered milk that came along. "The early products were quite lumpy and hard to stir into water. But they were less expensive than whole milk."
Cache Valley is also famous for Aggie Ice Cream, which nowadays is made from the milk produced at the Caine Dairy.
But nothing in the valley has reached quite the stature of cheese.
In 1931, dairy farmers looking for higher milk prices decided to form a co-op to give them leverage with the milk plants. When negotiations with those plants broke down in 1938, the co-op bought an idle sugar factory in Amalga and began processing its own milk. In 1941, the Cache Valley Dairy Association hired Edwin Gossner, a Swiss emigrant, to start producing Swiss cheese.
In 1966, Gossner left the association to start his own cheese factory, located in west Logan. Gossner Foods has put cheese not only on the valley map, but the world map as well.
"We used to bring in 5,000 pounds of milk a day in 10-gallon cans," says Dale Humphries, head cheesemaker at the plant. "Now we bring in 900,000 pounds a day and produce 80,000 pounds of cheese."
Milk is purchased locally, but also from dairies stretching from Delta to Jerome, Idaho.
The plant is particularly known for its Swiss cheese, which is one of the more difficult cheeses to make, says Humphries. "Gossner makes 12 percent of the world's Swiss cheese."
The plant also produces Cheddar, Monterey Jack, Muenster, Pepper Jack, Colby and other cheeses.In 1982, Gossner launched a line of aseptically packaged milk milk treated at ultra-high temperatures to give it a long shelf life which now travels all over the world with U.S. troops and is sold in Latin America, Asia and other places where milk supplies and refrigeration are limited.
Cache Valley Dairy
According to the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food, there are 100 Grade A dairies in Cache Valley.
According to the Utah State University Extension Service, a January 2004 inventory listed 19,400 dairy cows in Cache Valley.
USU's George B. Caine Dairy Center is located at 4300 S. Hwy. 89-91, Wellsville. Visitors are welcome (435-245-6067).
Gossner Foods is located at 1051 N. 1000 West, Logan. Cheese, milk and other products are available in the company store, which is open Monday-Saturday, 8 a.m.-7 p.m. (800-944-0454).