Farm Horizons, February 2003

Creamery gets new life

By Lynda Jensen

The Howard Lake Creamery is obtaining a new lease on life as part of a planned expansion at Sonstegard Foods.

The creamery building, built in 1894, has withstood the test of time, being the first creamery in Wright County to use electrical power in 1915.

More recently, the building, being operated as Sonstegard Foods as an egg-drying plant, withstood a fire in July 2001.

Previously, the creamery briefly stood silent for about two years in the 1970s, before Phil Sonstegard arrived in Howard Lake in 1972, said Mavis Scheer, widow of Gaylin Scheer, who worked as a butter maker for more than 25 years at the creamery.

Since the '70s, Sonstegard Foods produced dehydrated eggs and milk for sale to commercial companies such as Winchell Doughnuts, Creamette Macaroni, General Mills, Nabisco, and others, according to the "100 Years of the Good Life" Howard Lake history book.

This continued until a fire struck Sonstegard's in July 2001.

The fire destroyed two driers, but half the plant was still intact, and that allowed the business to pursue a different product division, said Plant Manager Geoff Smith.

The expansion involves exclusive production of edible products, which do not have the smell associated with its counterpart produced in the past, inedible products, Smith said.

Originally, the association that ran the creamery got its start before the turn of the century, according to the history book.

The Farmers' Cooperative Dairy Association at Howard Lake dates back to 1897, when the farmers began to haul their milk.

In 1969, the Farmers' Cooperative Dairy Association merged with the American Milk Producers. AMPI eventually closed the Howard Lake plant in about 1970, Scheer said.

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