May 14, 2021

Today’s “From the Vault Friday” features an invoice for dairy supplies from the Ridge Valley Co-operative Association fonds (Fonds 161). The Ridge Valley Co-operative Association was formed on April 8, 1939 for the purpose of establishing a Cheese Factory in the Ridge Valley District of the Peace River Country. The organizers were mainly Mennonite farmers who had come to the area in the 1920s. Shares were sold to settlers in the area at a value of $25.00 each, which could be paid for in cash or by work in lieu of cash. There were 45 initial subscribers.

A frame building was built on land donated by Joseph Taylor on the south edge of SW 14-71-26-W5, beside Deep Creek which was dammed to provide water for steam. There was also an air cooled cold storage room where the cheese was stored and aged. Operating money to start the venture was borrowed from the Linden Cheese Co-op in southern Alberta, and the factory opened in 1939.

Garnet Summers was the first cheese maker. Milk was purchased from local producers who depended on ice houses to cool the milk and keep it sweet, as there was no refrigeration. For many of these farmers, it was the only regular cash income they received. The Cheddar Cheese product was made daily and sold to individuals as well as being shipped to Swift’s in Edmonton and Horne & Pitfield in Grande Prairie.

By 1941, total annual production was 44, 000lbs of cheese. In 1942, the group considered incorporation. At the time there were 27 milk shippers and they were processing 2,300 to 2,500lbs of milk per day. In 1945 there were 51 members in the association, but in 1948, the factory closed due to competition from the Northern Alberta Dairy Pool, who could offer a better price for raw milk.

Read more about the Ridge Valley Co-operative Association fonds (Fonds 161).

From the Vault Friday is a social media campaign that highlights interesting materials from the collections of the South Peace Regional Archives. This project was made possible by an Access to Holdings Grant from the Archives Society of Alberta.

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