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The history of Pennsylvania’s largest Swiss cheese manufacturer begins as most stories do, with humble and strong roots. For three generations the Koller family had been making and perfecting the art of cheese making in Germany.
In 1949 John Koller became a Molkerei-Meister (Dairy Master) at the Weinstephan Dairy School in Freising, Germany. John then traveled to Ollarzareid, Germany to intern and begin his career in cheese at a small cheese factory. It was here that he met his future wife Maria.
Like so many others, after the Second World War ended John was finally able to take his young wife and make the journey to Ellis Island and come to America to pursue his dream of family and prosperity. The Koller’s settled in Fredonia, Pennsylvania, a small, rural, and mostly Amish town. John began working at a small Amish run Co-Op in 1955. This small operation was making 4 blocks (800 LBS) of cheese per day. At that time the milk was delivered each morning in cans, and the cheese was all made by hand in larger copper kettles. The process was very labor intensive and required the finest attention to detail required for making Swiss cheese. In two years 1957 John was promoted to Manager and for the next thirty years continued working in that role.
In 1975 after graduating from High School and earning his cheese makers license, Richard Koller joined his father at work and the two began to build a strong and successful industry. It was also the same year that the plant received its first large scale renovation. The copper kettles were replaced with stainless steel vats that were capable of producing six blocks of cheese per vat. In 1981 John and Richard incorporated into John Koller and Son Inc., and in 1987 Richard took the reigns as President of the company.
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Nine years later in 1990, John Koller and Son Inc. realized the need to process the whey byproduct from cheese making into some form of revenue and installed the newest membrane separation technology and began producing Whey Protein Concentrate ( WPC). At this time 80 % of the incoming milk was Grade A bulk. In the early 90’s the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture introduced new and stricter requirement for milk temperatures and processing, and the local Amish farms were unable to meet these new mandates.
As a result they began to send their milk to plants in Ohio, and Rick began to outsource larger farms. Richard realized that in order to continue growing a new Wastewater treatment facility needed to be built. This new facility would treat the waste water in accordance with the Department of Environmental Protection. In 1995 another renovation and addition which increased production to 3.5 million pounds of cheese per year through that addition of Cheese vats capable of producing 2800 pounds or 14 blocks of cheese each. These vats were the first automated vats the cheese plant had seen and was the first automated addition to the plant making the entire process less labor intensive for the employees.
The new millennium has brought the most change to John Koller and Son. In five years Richard increased production to over five million pounds per year, and began reaching out to other equipment manufactures overseas to acquire the most up to date and efficient equipment available. Five new cheese vats were again installed which were capable of producing 4800 pounds of cheese per vat, with the increased production, new additions were needed to store the inventory during the aging process. In 2005 Richard’s German contacts provided him with state of the art, automated cheese pressing equipment which made the process even less labor intensive.
The family tradition continued in 2007 when Richard’s oldest son, Hans joined the business. Hans studied Food Science at The University of Wisconsin at River Falls, where he obtained his Cheese Makers license. Hans continues to work with Richard as the Quality Control Manager.
In 2008 the Richard undertook a green energy program which would convert the cheese waste products into“clean and green energy” to run the plant, to see a more detailed description of GREEN ENERGY PROCESS click here.
From making 4 blocks of cheese per day to making over seven million pounds of cheese per year, John Koller and Son Inc. remains rooted in a strong sense of the family tradition of making the finest quality Swiss cheese.