Joe and Wendi Arnold watched it happen with beer, and thought, why not with cheese, too?
Why not make specialty cheeses locally, to be sold locally, much like small microbreweries have carved out a market for themselves in the land of Budweiser and Coors?
The Arnolds – and this might be a good time to point out that Joe is from Wisconsin – have been making cheeses for themselves and to give away to friends for years, two gallons of milk at a time.
Of course, going from two gallons to 300 gallons a whack would require a few minor adjustments.
So they built a three-level plant in their backyard in Polson to house the equipment they would need.
The aging room in the basement has a couple dozen cheese experiments going on as the Arnolds try out different types they may produce. The main level houses the shiny stainless steel equipment, much of it adapted by Joe to suit the Arnolds’ needs.
In fact, about the only thing that doesn’t work is one of the few things they bought brand-new for their cheese factory – a chart-recorder to keep exact track of the pasteurization process.
Wendi says they expect to obtain their license to operate next week. As soon as the chart-recorder is functioning properly, they can make cheeses to sell.
All will wear the Flathead Lake Cheese label.
It will, so far as the Arnolds know, be the first American cheese factory run on solar power.