The Almelund Creamery
The first cooperative creamery opened in Almelund in 1896 and quickly gained a reputation for producing high-quality products. One of the co-op organizers was T.H. Haecker, a professor of dairying at the University of Minnesota and staunch advocate for farmer-owned cooperative creameries. In 1897, co-op member Emil Blomquist became state butter-making champion with a perfect score. He would go on to compete nationally and act as Vice President of the Eastern Minnesota Butter and Cheesemakers’ Association.
Sparks from a chimney started a fire in the creamery in 1919. The blaze spread quickly throughout the wood-frame building. Children watched from the windows of the nearby schoolhouse as townspeople tried in vain to put out the fire and save equipment from the creamery.
A larger, brick building was built the same year to replace the burned creamery and production resumed. The co-op was the first in the state to sign a marketing agreement to manufacture sweet cream butter for Land O’ Lakes. It was also the first creamery in Minnesota to enroll employees in a volunteer group insurance plan.
A second co-op member, Bob Anderson, became the state butter-making champion in 1950 with a perfect score. During the Cold War, the roof of the creamery was used as a Civil Defense Aircraft Spotter Station.
While other creameries went out of business in the 1970s, the Almelund prospered. It did more than $3 million in business in 1975 alone. The decline in business came in the 1980s and 1990s for the Almelund creamery and the building was eventually abandoned. As I write this, the property the ruins of the creamery stand on is for sale for $130,000. The future of the building is uncertain.