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Cheese Factory Housed In Retired Reefers
When Jules Wesselink and his family started their farm-made Gouda cheese business in 1996, they had a number of challenges to overcome.
  The biggest problem was that construction of a traditional building would've meant purchasing an extremely expensive building permit. Authorities in that area discourage development in an effort to protect the habitat of an endangered species of rat. So the family decided to set up their business in a retired refrigerator truck. The fact that it sits on wheels meant that no building permit was needed.
  The Wesselinks spent a full year researching the cheese business, including a fact-finding trip to Holland and plenty of practice making two 2-lb. cheeses at a time for family and friends to enjoy.
  After launching the business, they gradually added more reefers, until the family is now using nine units altogether. Because the reefers sit "above ground," they don't interfere with habitat, and make it much more difficult for the endangered rodents to interfere with cheese making.
  The "retired" reefer units cost between $2,000 and $5,000 each. All had their refrigeration units removed already.
  "The Department of Motor Vehicles considers these reefers to be non-operational because they're stationery, but we receive paperwork each year, reminding us that if we do start using them on the roads we have to pay registration fees," Thomas says.
  The family positioned the 8 by 45-ft. reefers up against each other, in two sets of four, and cut out the walls between a couple of them to make one big room and put smaller access doors into the other trailers.
  They installed an electric refrigeration unit at the end of each trailer, with supplemental ceiling fans to circulate air. The cold box compartment is kept the coolest, at 38 degrees.
  The refrigeration system required an investment of about $30,000.
  The family spent an additional $40,000 to build a steel roof on a wooden frame over the entire block of trailers.
  The ninth trailer sits off to the side but is connected to the others with a 5-ft. long covered catwalk. This space is used for general storage of boxes, etc., and occasionally for chilling.
  "These reefers were definitely the most economical way we could have done this, and they've allowed us to keep adding on as needed," Wesselink says.
  The family makes their cheeses from fresh, whole milk and ages it for a minimum of two months.
  "Up until about two years ago, we milked our own cows," Wesselink points out. "Since then, we've been purchasing milk from the dairy farm next door to us."
  They only make cheese three days a week, with one 750-lb. batch made on each of those days. It takes about 200 cows to produce enough milk for their needs on each of those days.
  "We make our cheese by hand so it's a slow process," she says. "We make 2-lb. and 12-lb. round Gouda wheels in a variety of flavors, and we employ eight people."
  They get orders from all over the U.S. via their website. They sell both wholesale and retail, and also have an on-farm store to sell direct. Winchester Cheese Company also offers scheduled tours of the operation.
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Winchester Cheese Co., 32605 Holland Rd., Winchester, Calif. 92596 (ph 951 926-4239; fax 951 926-3349; sales@winchestercheese.com; www. winchestercheese.com).

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2009 - Volume #33, Issue #3