Ryan Chartrand

As the holidays approach, figuring out the perfect gift for relatives and friends can be difficult, but the Cal Poly Creamery makes it easy with its holiday gift cheese assortments.

“They are excellent presents for alumni and friends – made by students, packaged by students and sold by students,” dairy science professor Nana Farkye said.

Seven cheeses are offered including smoked cheddar, gouda, smoked gouda, chipotle jack and mustang cheddar, as well as their award-winning laces, San Luis lace and reduced fat lace. The 12-ounce flavors are packaged into different assortments and can be purchased from their Web site www.calpolycheese.com.

The packages, which are all made and packed on campus, range in price from $22 to $50 and include three to seven flavors.

“Our price per pound, some people would say would be expensive, but as an artisan style cheese, . we’re very competitive in that,” creamery manager Jerry Mattas said. “(The students) are not using a lot of modern technology equipment to produce in mass volumes, so because of that additional labor that’s involved, you actually get a better cheese.”

“(The students) learn how to pick up the milk and process and convert into cheese,” Farkye said. “(They also) go the next step into marketing the cheese.”

Since the Creamery opened its Web site for the holidays on Nov. 1, about 8,000 orders have been received, Mattas said.

The Creamery has been making dairy products since 1903. It sells to a large variety of people and has anywhere from a 5 to 7 percent growth increase every year, Mattas said.

“We have alumni that are very much aware of it. We have the friends of alumni who have received packages in the past and then decided this is a great Christmas gift,” he said.

Although the students’ busiest months for selling are November and December, “they start going full-board in January – replenishing all the cheese that has been shipped,” Mattas said. “Eighty to 90 percent of the cheese that is produced between the months of January and May all get shipped out in December, so we only have a 10 percent holdover inventory for supplying Campus Market.”

A lengthy ripening process is required depending on the type of cheese.

“The ripening process is where the flavor compounds develop that are characteristic of that type of cheese,” Mattas said. “Cheddar takes six to nine months of aging to develop the pronounced cheddar compound,” which means they begin planning for their holiday rush in the beginning of the year.

Nine students in a variety of majors are currently employed by the Creamery.

“The Creamery’s doors are open to any Cal Poly student who would like to get a little hands-on training and knowledge of dairy processes/products as well as learn a little extra money,” Mattas said. “The main mission of the Creamery is to have student involvement. That’s why the doors are open to any Cal Poly student who would like to come in.”

The Creamery makes Cal Poly ice cream as well, which can be purchased throughout the year at Campus Market. The profits from the cheese go back to the Cal Poly Foundation and dairy science program.

“Everybody likes cheese,” Mattas said. “It can be used in a variety of food dishes as well as entr‚es. The seven types that we produce give a wide variety to the palate.”

The last day to place an order is Dec. 1. Shipping dates are Dec. 12 and Dec. 19 “for last-minute individuals,” Mattas said. The Web site is open all year for weddings, birthdays and gifts, and orders can be made by visiting their Web site or calling 756-6735.

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