The site of an old Maine dairy in Bangor that has been vacant for five years is now operational again and they're making cheese.
Pineland Farms Dairy Company started in 2006 but has been operating out of three different locations, with their dairy in New Gloucester, aged cheese stored in Portland, and their cutting and packaging plant in Mars Hill.
“It made sense to find a location that could consolidate all three of our locations and streamline our operations and this facility here in Bangor was the old Grant's Dairy milk bottling [facility],” said Mark Whitney, Pineland Farms Dairy president. “It has been closed down and vacant for five years so we began a process to renovate and revitalize this facility.”
The Libra Foundation, a Portland nonprofit that owns Pineland, bought the old 70,000-square-foot Bangor dairy in 2017 and after millions in renovation, the cheese making began.
“We've been making all the cheese here since August,” Whitney said, while giving a tour of the plant.
The best part is that the feta, Monterey Jack, baby Swiss, cheddars and cheese curds are made with Maine milk.
“All of our milk that we're using comes within a 50-mile radius of this plant,” Whitney said. “It was the same milk being delivered here when this was Grant's Dairy and then Garelick. When Garelick closed this facility, that milk had to be shipped to other processing plants and the further it has to ship, the more it costs the farmers.
“A lot of the milk produced here in the state of Maine is being shipping outside the state of Maine for processing,” Whitney added. “So this plant, bringing it back, is actually bringing processing closer to the farmers, and helps save on the hauling and transporting fees for the milk. And so it fills a need, not only for our customers looking for product locally but also as a local outlet for milk from the farms.”
Folks interested in purchasing the locally-made cheese can go to Hannaford, Shaw's and the Natural Living Center.
The plant, which now employs around 35 people, also has a ton of room to expand into other markets.
Pineland Farms is currently working on selling bulk milk to bakeries and other food processors.