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Northern Ont.’s popular Thornloe Cheese closing effectively immediately

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The owners of Thornloe Cheese, based in the Temiskaming Shores area of northeastern Ontario, have permanently closed both its manufacturing and retail store.

Gay Lea, a farming cooperative, said the decision to close the 83-year-old business is effective immediately.

“This decision follows a temporary production pause used to determine the extent of equipment improvements required to keep the plant in operation,” the company said in a news release.

“After a lengthy investigation, we have determined the investment required to bring the facility up to acceptable standards exceeds its financial viability.”

Messages to Gay Lea seeking more information on the decision were not yet returned Monday afternoon. 

In early October, the company stopped production and cancelled orders due to equipment failure. That pause in production became permanent Monday.

Gay Lea bought Thornloe from EastGen in 2019 with high hopes for its future.

“Today, the business employs approximately 30 people and is celebrated for its specialty cheeses, as well as for introducing the first butter and cheeses made with milk sourced from Dairy Farmers of Ontario Verified Grass Fed program,” the company said at the time.

Temiskaming-Cochrane MPP John Vanthof said on social media the news was “a shock” to the community.

“Years ago, when Parmalat announced they were closing the plant, local dairy farmers supported by the greater community strongly encouraged the company to sell the plant and production quota to local interests,” Vanthof wrote.

“In the end, Gencor, a farmer cooperative, took the plant over. It was transformed from a single-product plant to a producer of award-winning, much loved-cheeses and other dairy products.

He said he supported the sale to Gay Lea at the time because of the company’s “past commitment to local communities.”

“As someone who was involved in the Parmalat transfer phase of the plant, as a former dairy farmer, and a Gay Lea shareholder, I am extremely disappointed,” Vanthof wrote.

“I have spoken to the CEO of the company and will speak to other stakeholders in the upcoming days to see what can be done. We fought too long and too hard to save Thornloe Cheese to just wave and say goodbye.”

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