Hilmar Cheese Co. has won a national award for sustainable dairy production, just a year after nearby Joseph Gallo Farms did the same.
The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy gave Hilmar the Outstanding Dairy Processing & Manufacturing Sustainability honor at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. It was one of several awards presented to dairy farmers, processors and partners for work in environmental, economic and social arenas.
Hilmar was recognized in part for recycling almost all of the water left over after cheese and byproducts are extracted from milk.
2 million Pounds of cheese produced daily at the company’s Hilmar and Texas plants, combined
“You end up with very clean water that can be used for cleaning the facility and irrigating crops,” said Denise Skidmore, director of education and public relations, during a tour of the Lander Avenue property Tuesday.
The water goes to about 1,600 acres of cropland owned by several farmers, as well as to onsite landscaping, boilers and a cooling tower. Organic matter in the water is digested by bacteria, producing methane to fuel the boilers.
The center also noted Hilmar’s new headquarters building, which has solar panels and other resource-saving features, and its educational programs and community involvement. The visitors center offers lessons on dairy farming and cheese production, along with cheese and other items for sale.
The company employs about 930 people at its Hilmar site, established in 1984 and now the world’s largest cheese plant. Another 400 work at a smaller plant that opened in Dalhart, Texas, in 2007.
Together, they produce about 2 million pounds of cheese a day under various labels, along with whey proteins and lactose, which are sold as food ingredients around the world. A powdered milk plant is expected to open in Turlock by the end of this year.
The company was founded by 11 dairy farming families and is now in its third generation of ownership.
“While we never set out to win any awards, it’s a great honor to be recognized in this way,” David Ahlem, chief operating officer, said in a news release. “Our employees work hard to be a good steward of our resources and give back to our communities. We just think it’s the right thing to do.”
This year’s award winners “have done an excellent job improving upon best practices and serving their communities,” Paul Rovey, an Arizona dairy farmer and member of the judging panel, said in the announcement.
Joseph Gallo Farms, which makes cheese under the Joseph Farms label near Atwater, was recognized last year for work on water and energy use. It irrigates with storm runoff and wastewater from nearby communities, produces energy from cattle manure and pipes milk to reduce transportation costs.
John Holland: (209) 578-2385