Ferndale-based Appel Farms moved its cheese operations in December to a new 12,800-square-foot production and cold-storage facility on the farm, positioning it for future growth while increasing the farm’s efficiency and food security.
“We can grow a tremendous amount without running out of room,” said John Appel, who runs the cheese production operations while his wife Ruth directs retail and marketing functions.
Faber Construction of Lynden built the unique pre-engineered steel building, located at 6605 Northwest Drive. It incorporates an exo-skeleton technique, placing steel columns on the outside, while utilizing insulated metal panels for exterior walls, coolers and the freezer. This created an uninterrupted interior wall around the perimeter, increasing efficient use of the space, according to Rick Faber, president of Faber Construction.
The building also has to be capable of reaching a wide range of temperatures. Some blast freezers can get below 0 degrees while in dairy production coolers are expected to get as low as 37 and incubators as high as 108 degrees.
“The Appel Farms Cheese Plant is a one-of-a-kind facility in the Northwest Washington dairy industry,” Faber said.
Appel Farms started cheese production 30 years ago in an 800-square-foot building on the farm founded by John’s late father Jack Appel and his mother Audrey. They added on to it and utilized adjacent buildings to accommodate growth until the family was convinced a new building was necessary.
Cheese production currently uses more than half the milk from the farm’s 600-cow dairy herd, which is run by John’s brother Rich Appel. In mid-2016, Appel Farms began producing havarti, parmesan and maasdammer cheeses, adding to a product line that already included gouda, cheddar, quark, feta and paneer. The new building includes a window for viewing gouda production, although interested visitors should call ahead for times.
John Appel said steady growth has resulted in this expansion, but the family wasn’t taking all of the credit. “God has blessed us even despite some of our decisions,” he said.
The Cheese Shop, the retail arm of Appel Farms, is adjacent to the new production facility and open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturdays. For more information, call the store at (360) 312-1431 or visit www.appel-farms.com.