Local Agriculture

Cheese making: Ernest and Peggy Reid, cheese makers

Visit the Hastings County Museum of Agricultural Heritage to find out more about the cheese making heritage of Hastings County. Ernest and Peggy Reid were two of the last of a long line of cheese makers in the Township of Rawdon. This video is based on the stories Ron Reid tells about his parents Ernest and Peggy Reid. Ernest Reid was born in 1926 to John and Bessie (Morton) Reid in Marmora. Ernest Reid started his career in cheese making when he was 15 years of age at Enterprise Cheese Co. where he worked as an apprentice for Leslie McKeown for 3 years. After this he attended Kemptville Dairy School for three month and graduated from the dairy school in March of 1945.

On finishing school he returned to work for Leslie McKeown at Evergreen cheese and Butter Co. for one season. Ernest always enjoyed what he was doing and it was his goal to go ahead with it, when Enterprise Cheese Co, came up for tenders Ernest applied and was accepted to start his duties in the spring of 1946.

On November 16 1946 Ernest married Lois Ann Reid (Peggy) Groves. Together they ran the plant for five years. In those five years they had two boys, Ron and Gary. Always wanting to expand his operation, Ernest applied for tender of Evergreen Cheese and Butter Co. and in 1957 he purchased Evergreen Cheese and Butter Co. He renamed the plant Evergreen Cheese Ltd. and took out a mortgage from Victoria and Gray Trust Co. to modernize the plant and buy new machinery. One of the machines the patrons were interested in was a can washer. The can washer would wash and steam 80 lbs. cans. Evergreen Cheese Ltd. was one of the first in Hastings County to have this machine. The next project for Evergreen was to develop a sewage system for whey, a by-product of cheese. The farmers were milking more cattle, so they had very few pigs to feed the extra whey that meant that Evergreen Cheese Ltd. had to get rid of it. Ministry of the Environment (MOE) recommended they install a sprinkler system across the road on William Goods' farm. They bought the 100 acres farm for the sprinkler system, and used 40 acres and sold the rest. They irrigated 40 acres in the summer, and according to the MOE’s suggestion also in winter. Winter irrigation was impossible because the water would freeze up the pips. They bought two more farms in the area, one of these was Gordon Burrell’s farm. A lagoon was build there with one mile of special pipe to connect the factory with the lagoon. As time went on two more lagoons were built to keep up with the waste. At this time (1962) Ernest and his wife welcomed a new addition to the family, a baby girl Kathy.

Ernest purchased his first bulk tank truck in 1964. This truck was used to pick up the milk at the farms and bring it to the factory. This saved a lot of time for the farmers who did not have to take milk to the factory themselves. Ernest had three farmers who paid him to pick up their milk. Before the year was out he had nine people paying him to provide this service. The Ontario Milk Board organized the industry at the time and it allowed Ernest to send his bulk tank south as far as the 401, thus allowing him to have many customers. In 1966 her purchased another milk truck; with two trucks they were able to handle the milk more efficiently that before. As time went by the milk board gave milk out on the quota basis. Ernest did not have enough quota to fill his plant so he purchased quota from Roblin Cheese Factory in Tweed, Maenia Cheese Factory in Campbellford. He also bought Stirling’s Shamrock Cheese Factory for its quota. In 1972 he ran both Shamrock and Evergreen.

At the end of the year 1972 the government came out with a grant to close small cheese factories. He took advantage of this grant and 1973 Ernest took milk from Shamrock to Evergreen. This transfer filled Evergreen Cheese Ltd, to capacity until the year 1977. The Reids sold Evergreen Cheese Co. in 1979.

Visit the Hastings County Museum of Agricultural Heritage to find out more about the cheese making heritage of Hastings County.