HUGHESVILLE, Md—Members of Southern Maryland's Amish community recently received the go-ahead from Maryland Center for Milk and Dairy Product Safety to begin cheese production at their new dairy facility in St. Mary's county.
A project of over four years in the making, Clover Hill Dairy is the first cheese house in Southern Maryland to receive a Manufacture Grade permit from the state for pasteurized cheese and is the culmination of the resourcefulness of a group of seven Amish farmers who were determined to add value to their dairy herd operations to make cheese using their own milk production.
Initially, Clover Hill owners worked to overcome many hurdles to obtain approval to use non-standard electric current to operate the dairy equipment and assure state inspectors that the pasteurization system would comply with the rigorous safety, sanitation and performance standards mandated by the Food and Drug Administration.
In 2011, dairy members asked the Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission (SMADC) to assist with the complex permitting requirements and facilitate day to day communication with the Center for Milk and Dairy Product Safety. In the early spring of 2012 SMADC, with the assistance of Senator 'Mac' Middleton, arranged a meeting with the Clover Hill Dairy board and Maryland Center for Milk and Dairy Product Safety to review the dairy systems and facility plans. In the ensuing months, all parties worked closely together to insure that all the operating systems would perform to industry standards and assure successful outcome of the dairy project.
Located in Mechanicsville, the 5000-square foot dairy was funded, designed and built entirely by members of the Amish community. The production room houses two large stainless steel cheese vats; each with the capacity to hold 2,000 gallons of milk, producing more than 1,000 pounds of cheese. The miles of piping, sanitation and pasteurization equipment was designed and installed by dairy engineering consultants Rowlands Sales Company, Inc. of Hazleton, Pennsylvania. The cheese house complex also includes a milk off-loading bay, walk-in refrigerated storage, packing areas, office, changing and restrooms, a retail store and a separate carriage house for the communitys horse-drawn transportation.
At full production, the milk supply for Clover Hill will be sourced from over 11 local dairy farms. Three types of cheese have been approved for production; Cheddar, Jack, and Latin American curd cheese. Currently, dairy owners are working with St. Marys County Health Department to permit the on-site retail shop which will sell their packaged cheeses. Daniel Esh, Clover Hill Chairman, anticipates the shop will be open to the general public by the end of March 2014. Operating hours will be Wednesday through Saturday during daylight hours. The dairy continues to work with the Center for Milk and Dairy Product Safety on all areas of cheese production and will receive routine inspections required by the state for water, milk testing and operational procedures. To contact the dairy, visit during store hours, or write to: Clover Hill Dairy, 27925 Woodburn Hill Road, Mechanicsville, MD 20659.
Source: The Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission (SMADC)