Creamery is almost done
Yes the creamery is almost done for real, no April Fool's joke! It’s been quite a while since I last posted about our creamery project. Valentine's Day has come and gone, the annual California Artisan Cheese Festival is behind us, and I survived another birthday last week. In between all of that, we’ve been busy trying to wrap up this creamery project once and for all so we can focus on making cheese! I know the creamery will never really be DONE done, I’m not completely delusional. There will always be something - some new or unanticipated problem or need, always requiring more time, more energy, and more money, all of which are running pretty low for us right now. It’s been 75 days since getting our building permit, and so much has happened, I don’t know where to start. I have both good news and bad news. Which do you want first? Let’s start with the good.
The good news is that our creamery is mostly done, and I LOVE IT!!! We still have a long punch list of various small items and aesthetic finishing touches that need to be done, but they may have to wait since they are not critical for the functioning of the creamery. Our number one priority is to make sure everything necessary for safe and efficient cheesemaking is in place and working, and we have pretty much done that. We have completed the creamery to the point of getting officially licensed by the California Dept of Food and Agriculture. That long-awaited occasion happened on February 23rd and we definitely celebrated with some champagne I’d had on standby just for that milestone. This was quite an achievement, because if you pay attention to the dates, we completed all of the construction and finish work and equipment installation necessary to function as a commercial cheese plant in just 37 days! This means that as far as the state of California is concerned, we have done everything necessary to legally produce cheese in our new space. After waiting several months for the County of Marin to issue our building permit, we were pretty pleased with ourselves for cranking out our part in an impressively short amount of time, and doing it well. Everything is installed, all the big construction items are complete, and it looks like a real creamery. The status with the County of Marin on the other hand, is another story…..
The bad news is that the County of Marin Environmental, Health & Safety (EH&S) department, who had placed a variety of holds on the project relating to well and septic matters, has still not lifted the final hold on our building permit that would allow us to close it out once and for all and technically allow us to occupy the space with the County’s blessing. Why are they holding things up? The creamery has a bathroom with a toilet and hand sink, which flush/discharge into a septic system that is also connected to a home on the property where a family of 4 has resided for many years. This septic system has functioned perfectly fine for many years, even back when there used to be a 200 head cow dairy with multiple employees using the same bathroom. Now that we have proposed what is actually a much less intensive use, and we even installed a low-flush toilet as they mandated, they will not lift the hold on our permit until they are satisfied that the septic tank will meet certain performance standards. A lot of repairs and upgrades have been made in recent weeks in preparation for this test, which means lots more money spent. That test is supposed to happen this week, let’s hope it goes well and passes muster with the County officials.
I definitely want to give a BIG thumbs up to the staff of the California Department of Food and Agriculture. Throughout this project, they were all extremely helpful and supportive, very responsive, and even came to our creamery on a Saturday afternoon to do our final licensing approval. They truly worked with us, not against us, and for that I am very grateful and appreciative.
Coming soon, we hope to have some final financial data….just as soon as we are done writing checks long enough to get caught up!