Modern cheese industry born in Oneida County

UTICA — Rome native Jesse Williams’ vision forever changed the way cheese was and is produced throughout the United States.

The public is invited to learn how in a program on Cheesemaking in Oneida County at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 8, at the Irish Cultural Center of the Mohawk Valley-Museum, 623 Columbia St. Patrick Reynolds, director of public programs at the Oneida County History Center, will discuss the origin of the Cheese Factory System.

Williams was born in Rome in 1798 and became a farmer like his father. He created the modern cheese industry in 1851 just north of Rome, now the site of the New York State Fish Hatchery. He believed that by working together as cooperative dairies, farmers could maximize their profits. This led him to start the first cheese factory in the United States, a move that revolutionized agriculture not only locally but across the nation. In the first year he produced 100,000 pounds of cheese and was an immediate success. Within 15 years, there were 500 similar cheese factories in New York State alone. In 1864, Williams’ success led to the formation of the New York State Cheesemaker’s Association, which soon became the American Dairy Association.


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