History of

Millbank Cheese

Located in Perth County, Ontario, it is one of the rare settings that has endured change and has remained a constant in the remarkable Village of Millbank, which started in 1848.

Created in 1908 from a vision held by several local farmers, a cheese factory was set into operation. For a mere twenty dollars a share, and a grand total of eight hundred dollars, these entrepreneurial farmers purchased a village foundry on Waterloo Street.

The creation of Millbank Cheese and Butter was a logical and necessary step for a growing village. Local farmers were producing surpluses in their dairy operations, so it made economic sense to have a local industry that could support this boom.

Before the advent of refrigerated storage, the factory made cheese only during summer months-an arrangement that lasted until 1915. By 1933, the factory was producing 180,000 kg of cheese a year. An expansion added a creamery division that produced 43,000 kg of both creamery and whey butter. By 1981, this production would increase ten-fold, as the factory collected milk and cream from farms up to 18 miles away.

The procurement [1946] of stainless steel agitators to stir the cheese curd; the introduction [1950] of Colby cheese; and the purchase of the factory’s first bulk milk truck, enabled Millbank Cheese and Butter’s fortunes and those of its employees to rise steadily. Even a temporary setback from a fire in 1961, that destroyed the older original portion of the factory, could not impede its growth.

In 1972, Millbank Cheese became the first Canadian factory to have an automated cheese-maker, imported from Europe. This “cheddar master” did it all: it stirred the cheese curd; it sliced, matted, and turned the cheddar slabs; and then it milled the cheddar slabs into curds, which could be sold as curds or pressed into cheese blocks.

Between 1980 and 1983, office and retail space were created; an expanded warehouse added storage capacity with enough space to store 500,000 kg of cheese. This warehouse capacity was necessary because cheese production would reach two million kilograms annually by 1984-in both traditional 90 kg “rounds” as well as the new 240 kg boxes (later cut into more convenient 20 kg blocks for retail sale. When one adds in one million kg of butter production, it is easy to see that Millbank Cheese and Butter was the economic engine of the village, employing, at its peak, 35 full-time employees with annual sales over $12,000,000.

The factory achieved national and international notoriety for what might be termed its “boutique behemoths”-giant cheddar cheeses specially created for exhibition in Canada and abroad.

In 1979 a 3,100 lb. round cheddar was produced for the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto. It was received with great fanfare and was viewed by hundreds of thousands of visitors. It ended its runway career when it was sold to the Dominion Food chain where it returned to its intended purpose-as “old” cheddar for Ontario grocery shoppers.

In later years another giant cheese was produced and sent to Britain’s Annual Exhibition of the Royal Society in London. Cheese maker Ken Krotz and his wife Mary Jane accompanied the colossal cheddar and in doing so were part of a record that still stands today for the largest cheese ever to be flown across the Atlantic Ocean.

Although a number of cheese makers practiced their craft over the life of the cheese factory, it bears mentioning that for seventy of those years, the father and son team of Wes and Ken Krotz provided excellent stewardship that culminated in the local, national, and international recognition for the factory and the village. Together with Don Tanner, who also served as a Millbank cheese maker for nearly 40 years, these men were constant innovators, able to keep Millbank Cheese and Butter at the cutting edge of technology.

By the late ’70s and early ’80s, the Ontario dairy industry experienced great upheavals, particularly regarding milk quota-the right to ship milk to market. In the early days, milk quota could be acquired for little or no cost, but the move toward factory farming soon priced quota out of the reach of many young dairy farmers.

The problem was compounded with the advent of a corresponding plant supply quota, required by a cheese plant to process milk into cheese. If, indeed, the old adage of bad things happening in threes holds true, then1984 brought the third quota concern: Ontario government legislation prevented new dairies from receiving new quota licenses.

This political decision had a major impact on Millbank Cheese and Butter. Like many small companies, they fell prey to business takeovers that targeted the factory’s precious production quota. So began a revolving door of owners: J.M. Schneiders in 1984; Ault Foods in 1995; and Parmalat in 1996. In 1999, Parmalat ended Millbank’s production, but kept the retail store open until 2003. It seemed Millbank Cheese and Butter was coming to an end.

But again, as in Millbank’s pioneer past-a story that is satisfyingly familiar-ninety area families, the majority traditional farm families operating 100 acre farms, negotiated a purchase agreement with Parmalat to buy the factory and return it to its community roots.

It was their goal to revitalize the cheese plant as a community-based corporation-with a vision of diversity that would use the plant’s manufacturing and cold storage capacity to house five corporations in two separate areas of the building. The new community-based corporation is called Millbank Cheese & Cold Storage Inc.

The dairy side of the plant is totally segregated from the non-dairy commodities. The dairy side generates products made by the three M’s-Mornington Heritage Cheese and Dairy Co-op Inc. makes products from goats milk ; Monforte Dairy makes products from sheep milk ; and Millbank Cheese, which acquired production quota from Quality Jersey, in 2004, makes products from cows milk. Neither sheep nor goat milk require production nor processing quota.

The dairy side also serves as a depot for four of Oxford Milkway’s bulk tank trucks and personnel. Millbank also values its interdependence and trade relationship with small family farms located outside of Canada. The non-dairy side of the plant is dedicated to the warehousing and distribution of the Fair Trade Organic Cocoa Camino cane sugar, chocolate and cocoa products.

The three M’s are earning a reputation for excellence in cheese-making. The dairy side provides a setting that places a high value on community-based economics. The organic cows milk, the goat milk, and the sheep milk are trucked from distances up to 100 kms away.

In early manufacturing, Millbank innovated with the making of its cultures, and its cheese and butter. The scale of its manufacturing operations were considerably larger than today’s production. Common to both processes is the automated stirring of the cuds, and the hand-turning of the slabs of matted cheddar. In the past, to improve efficiency, Millbank moved from crafting smaller 20 and 40 squares of cheese to the crafting of 240 pound squares. A large hydraulic press used to be used to remove the brine and whey while a vacuum chamber was employed to reduce the openness and improve the texture of the cheese.

Today, a smaller pneumatic cheese press is used at the plant to remove the whey and to assist in the forming of the cheddar cheese blocks. The production of the Monforte artisan cheeses, often takes place in small kettle vats. This cheese is formed using low input technology, in small plastic moulds.

The vacuum chamber is no longer available, so the former vacuum chamber room has been transformed into a cheese ripening room for Monforte’s cheeses.

For food safety and food quality reasons, Millbank made significant investments in plant infra-structure upgrades: floors have been designed to withstand high temperatures and the harsh effects of cleaning solvents; stainless steel drains have been installed; block walls have been built; and the refrigeration, heating, and air circulation and air pressure systems have been upgraded. The plant’s infra-structure has been designed to reduce the risk of health hazards and cross-contamination. Plant protocols include: staff training; comprehensive food safety standard operating procedures; and laboratory testing of products at various stages of the process to further ensure food safety.

Today’s factory operates with approximately 18 full-time and 10 part-time employees and makes important economic contributions to the Millbank area as well as other communities. The trade relationships with family farms and local manufacturers, puts food on the table for many families. Perseverance and a belief in the village illustrates once again how Millbank has retained many of its founding community principles.

Factory Returns To Its 1908 Roots Millbank Cheese Gets Revitalized As A Community-Based Corporation

In the late 1960s, “bigger is better” emerged as the dominant practice in Canadian agriculture. Traditional family farms, which used to include small dairy operations, some hogs, laying hens, broilers, vegetables, and fruit and field crops, were not immune to these changes, nor were the small, locally-owned-canning factories and dairies, such as Millbank Cheese & Butter Ltd..

Significant changes were seen in Ontario’s dairy industry in the late 70’s and 80’s. A new quota system and other changes were used to regulate the milk supply market. The quota system worked well for farm families that acquired quota for low or no cost during the early years, but it soon became a barrier. Young farm families could not afford the escalating cost of quota needed to ship milk to market. By 2007, the quota to ship the milk from one cow to market was worth almost $28,000.

When production quota became necessary for a farmer to ship milk to market, plant supply quota became necessary for a dairy plant to process milk into cheese. In 1984, the Ontario government passed a law to prevent licences from being issued to new dairy companies. Larger corporations then began competing to buy smaller cheese factories to increase their plant supply quota.

Canadian corporate giants, McCain Foods and J.M. Schneider Foods, competed to purchase Millbank Cheese & Butter Ltd.. In 1984, Schneider’s acquired control of Millbank Cheese & Butter for $5.5 million.

In 1995, Ault Foods bought the factory from Schneider’s and almost immediately stopped butter production. One year later, Parmalat Canada bought the entire dairy division of Ault Foods, which included the Millbank plant. Parmalat, purchased the plant for its supply quota then ended the manufacturing activities in early 1999. At closure, the Millbank Cheese plant employed 35 and had annual sales near $15 million. Parmalat continued to operate the factory outlet store until May 2003.

Millbank Cheese Revitalized – 1999-2008

When production at the Millbank cheese factory ended in 1999, a group of community members and former employees attempted to buy back the factory, however, Parmalat Canada would not sell and the group’s inability to acquire plant supply quota was an additional complication.

Although a number of cheese makers practiced their craft over the life of the cheese factory, it bears mentioning that for seventy of those years, the father and son team of Wes and Ken Krotz provided excellent stewardship that culminated in the local, national, and international recognition for the factory and the village. Together with Don Tanner, who also served as a Millbank cheese maker for nearly 40 years, these men were constant innovators, able to keep Millbank Cheese and Butter at the cutting edge of technology.

About the time of the plant closure in 1999, Rufus Kuepfer, a bishop in the Old Order Amish community, suggested that one answer to the high cost of cow milk production quota would be to milk goats and sheep, which was not controlled by a quota system. To test his proposal, Kuepfer convened a meeting of more than 50 farm families. Many expressed an interest in milking goats. Dee Armstrong, chair of the Ontario Goat Milk Producers Association, was invited to discuss with the community, the size and potential of the goat milk market. Armstrong’s figures indicated that there was excellent potential.

The rest is history

The group created a goat cheese co-operative, Mornington Heritage Cheese & Dairy Co-op Inc. Mornington’s goat milk production began at Bright’s Cheese and Butter Ltd. in 2000 and continued at several other dairies until October 2004 for cheese manufacturing. The founding directors of Mornington were Al Giller, Malcolm MacDonald, Ed Bennett, Bob Reid, Brad Lindner and Ross Bender.

In early 2003, Parmalat Canada agreed to negotiate a purchase agreement with Ed Bennett, who was acting on behalf of more than 90 Millbank and area families, mostly small-scale traditional farmers. The group formed a community-based corporation known as Millbank Cheese & Cold Storage Inc. The deal closed in September 2003.

The founding directors of Millbank Cheese & Cold Storage Inc. were Ed Bennett (President), Mel Herrfort (Vice-President), Murray Bauman (Secretary-Treasurer) and Daniel R. Gerber. Osiah Martin, Aaron Weidman and Leroy Ebersol have served as advisors to the board since its inception.. Millbank’s core staff includes Malcolm MacDonald and Sam Zehr, plant engineers; Simon Zehr, warehouse manager; Mary Edith Zehr, assistant to the warehouse manger; and Linda MacDonald, store manager. Ruth Klahsen and Rachel Bauman have served as Millbank’s cheesemakers.


Today, the Millbank Cheese & Cold Storage Inc. factory has evolved to include a new vision and new business activities. The factory outlet store reopened in 2003 and sells a broad variety of cheese and dairy products as well as other locally grown and manufactured goods. The plant currently manufactures goat, sheep and cow milk products. Millbank acquired its cow milk plant supply quota when it purchased the Quality Jersey Dairy in Seaforth from Farm Credit Canada in June 2004.

Standing on the shoulders of past leaders, the community-owned Millbank Cheese & Cold Storage Inc. hopes to restore the Millbank Cheese brand to its former renown and to build a robust warehouse business. Its mission is to assist local farm families to add value to what they produce on the land, to create local employment and to achieve excellence in dairy and other food-related areas. Hand-crafted organic cheese production is a vital part of the plant’s capacity-building work. Also, Millbank has formed trade relationships with other manufacturers with similar practices.

Cold Storage Business: Fair Trade Organic Products The new vision for Millbank Cheese includes a robust cold storage business. The warehousing and distribution of organic fair-traded foods has been an integral part of Millbank’s revitalization. Warehouse tenant, La Siembra Co-operative, shares Millbank’s values of fair trade with small-scale family farms.

Its suppliers are numerous co-operative farmers in Canada, the Caribbean and South and Central America. La Siembra’s Cocoa Camino products are distributed across North America and can be purchased at fair prices at Millbank’s factory outlet store. We view the growth of the fair trade warehouse business as important to Millbank’s future success.

Factory Outlet Store

The renewed and growing business of the Factory Outlet Store has been appreciated by the community investors and directors and is a key element in Millbank’s success. The store manager, Linda MacDonald, has family roots in the plant run deep. Grandfather Mosey Ropp and father Nelson Ropp had served as directors of Millbank Cheese & Butter. Linda’s twin brother Larry served as assistant general manager for many years, while husband Malcolm was the stationary engineer.

Come visit our store.

We offer a wide array of excellent cheeses made from cow, goat, and sheep milk. We also sell other wonderful organic cheese and food products, cheese trays and a great variety of gift baskets year round for family, friends and employees to enjoy.


6974 Church St.
Millbank, ON
N0K 1L0

Contact Us

(519) 595 - 8787

(519) 595 - 4906 (fax)

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Hours of Operation

Monday, Tuesday, Saturday - 9:00 to 17:00
Wednesday, Thursday, Friday - 10:00 to 18:00

Buses by Appointment

Millbank Cheese