Fifth Town Cheese becomes greenest dairy in North America

Fifth Town Cheese becomes greenest dairy in North America

A tomato salad with Fifth Town mozzarella (Photo by Renée Suen)

Back in 2006, when Toronto Life first wrote about Petra Cooper, a former publishing exec from Toronto who left a successful career in publishing to venture into cheese making, she was still making curds in her Summerhill condo. Since then, Cooper has relocated her Fifth Town Artisan Cheese Co. to Prince Edward County, taken on a staff of 14, and become one of the province’s top cheese makers, winning numerous awards, including first place in the aged goat cheese category at the American Cheese Society Awards (the Superbowl of cheese competitions) last August.

Cooper is once again in the media, this time for her commitment to sustainability. Fifth Town’s $2-million facility is the first dairy in North America to receive platinum-level certification, the highest available, from LEED. In other words, it’s probably the most eco-friendly dairy on the continent.

Fifth Town is powered, in part, by a windmill, as well as eight solar panels that feed energy onto the grid (Ontario Hydro pays $300 a month for the power generated). Most dairies age their cheese in above-ground, power-intensive fridges, but Fifth Town is equipped with man-made cement caves that remain cool naturally. Instead of shipping out the whey (a by-product of cheese making), Fifth Town uses a $75,000 bio-wetland system that transforms it into water. Of course, the packaging is biodegradable and/or recyclable, and supplies and livestock are sourced from eco-conscious farmers.

Sustainability and success don’t have to be mutually exclusive, it seems: Fifth Town had revenues of nearly $1 million by the end of 2009, and Cooper expects to be just $20,000 short of breaking even by the end of her second fiscal year.

Cheese maker comes of age with energy-smart dairy [Globe and Mail]

Trading textbooks for triple creme [CNN]

• Culture club [Toronto Life]