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“The dairy business is getting tougher and tougher over the years,” Grant Kohler said, but he still looks forward to opening his small, family-run business, Heber Valley Artisan Cheese. Despite the tough economic conditions, Grant thinks his business, which will have a new creamery and an online operation that is rare in the dairy industry, has tremendous potential.
Heber Valley Artisan Cheese is not a typical small business. With more than 90 years of history and deep immigrant roots that spanned four generations and counting, its story epitomizes the American dream. When Albert Kohler, Grant’s grandfather, bought the Canyon View Farm in 1929, he had no idea whether his farm would survive the challenges of the Great Depression. What he did have was a tough work ethnic, an entrepreneurial spirit and the cheese making skills that he inherited from his father, who emigrated from Switzerland.
Nestled in the serene mountains of Heber Valley, the conception of Heber Valley Artisan Cheese was by no means guaranteed. In November 2010, even though Grant and his family were in a good financial situation, they were facing a lackluster dairy industry, a promised loan that did not come through and an economy was still in the midst of recovery. Thankfully, a loan jointly made by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and a local bank – public-private catalyst – gave the Kohlers the jumpstart they needed. Now the farm has 160 cows, and Grant is busy putting together a product delivery system before the company’s website goes live, in order to handle all the online orders for its artisan cheese from around the country – and possibly around the world. Even though the operation is family-run at the moment, Grant envisions adding at least 20 more employees in the next year and a half as the business takes off.
“We are very happy to have received the loan from USDA, because without it we wouldn’t have the funds to get things started,” Kohler said. “I’m applying now for the value-added grant from USDA to better improve our finances. I also hope to open up our company one day to the public one day, so more people have a chance to learn about how to make cheese and how a dairy farm works.”
Ari Matusiak is Executive Director of the White House Business Council.