The opening of a second cheese manufacturing plant in Garrett County, Md. is coming closer to fruition while an affiliated company expands its market.
High Country Creamery and Market's planned Grantsville facility will join Firefly Farms Creamery & Market's Accident facility as the county's cheese manufacturing hubs.
While awaiting the expected opening of their new cheese plant, High Country is currently manufacturing cheese in Terra Alta, West Virginia. Firefly makes goat milk cheeses, High Country makes cow's milk cheeses.
Garrett County is a great place to make cheese, said manager Linda Kling of High Country.
"Higher altitudes make good cheese. We pick up our milk from a local Amish farm that has healthy happy cows," Kling said. "One of the desires of the owners was to help local farmers in Garrett County and to provide local jobs," Kling said.
And cheese manufacturing needs lots of milk, Kling said.
High Country manufactures an average 2000 lbs. of cheese a month. It takes roughly 1500 gallons of milk a month to make the cheese, Kling said. High County started making cheese in Oct. 2014.
The new High Country cheese plant is being built from the ground up, Kling said, with the help of a $400,000 state grant. Plans are for the manufacturing facility to be open sometime this winter, Kling said. "Our plans for the plant are to have a large viewing window so guests can watch and experience the art of cheese making and sample fresh curds....We look to incorporate a small eatery as a part of the future plans of the plant as well," Kling said.
Firefly is a larger operation, which opened in 2000.
"Current production is 80,000 pounds of milk per month or 12,000 pounds of cheese," said Andrea Cedro, director of sales for Firefly. Firefly continues to grow.
"We are at the point where we are considering physical expansion but are only in the earliest of stages of plans," said Cedro.
While Firefly already markets through the mid-Atlantic and Southeast, High Country continues to build its market.
"We are hoping to get into the Whole Foods stores and in the DC, Baltimore, Pittsburgh and surrounding areas," Kling said.
High Country's bestselling cheeses vary by season. In late spring and early summer cheddar and fresh mozzarella are top.Curds are right in the running as always," Kling said. "When we have our plant finished, with the aging rooms needed, we want to add Gouda, Swiss, blue cheese and other varieties as room and time allow," Kling said.
Cheese curds are new to this area, but popular in Wisconsin and New York. They are a cheese snack with "a distinctive squeak when fresh out of the cheese vat," Kling said.
Firefly's best seller is Allegheny Chevre. Merry Goat Round is second, and the best-selling aged cheese, Cedro said.