|Orrock Creamery circa 1900|
Notice the multitude of milk cans in each wagon,
waiting to do business with the Creamery
With the closing of June as National Dairy Month, it seemed appropriate to recognize the importance of the dairy industry and the creameries to Sherburne County. For decades in the late 1800s and early 1900s, farmers recognized Central Minnesota as a significant producer of dairy. As late as the 1980s, the region was recognized as the “golden buckle of the dairy belt.” In the middle of this region, Sherburne County creameries offered quality milk, butter and cheese. The multitude of milk producers and their distributors in Sherburne County need to be recognized for their impact on the local economy and history. From the Elk River Creamery, and its related Twin Cities Milk Producers Association, to the Orrock Creamery and Becker Creamery, they all served a significant role in the agriculture history of the county.
|Advertisement for Becker Creamery|
Local historian Betty Belanger remembered the dairy industry as significant to the local farm economy. The milk checks, the money paid out to farmers for their daily milk deliveries, served as the only cash money farmers received on a regular basis. An early photograph of the Orrock Creamery shows several farmers, with wagons loaded with dairy products, waiting to deliver. Unfortunately, the Orrock Creamery burned down in 1907 and never rebuilt.
The Becker Creamery, Santiago Creamery and, more importantly, the Elk River Creamery filled the void to purchase from local dairy farmers. The Becker Creamery dates to 1906, while the Orrock Creamery opened for business by at least 1890. The Elk River Creamery also dates to the late 1800s.
|Elk River Creamery circa 1900|
The Elk River Creamery served the local farming community until 1921. That year the business sold to the Twin cities Milk Production Association. They built a new building, serving the community until 1957.
Although the primary product for all the operations was milk, cheese and, later, butter products came out of the creameries. In the early years, farmers in the county regarded buttermilk as waste. After production of butter, the farmers recovered the buttermilk to feed to their pigs.
The large number of creameries in the county suggests they played an important role in the local economy. As Betty Belanger noted, dairy as a cash crop impacted a significant number of farmers in Sherburne County.