Seattle-based Darigold Inc. has resumed partial butter production at its 91-year-old dairy production facility in Caldwell, Idaho, which was closed after an Oct. 12 fire tore through parts of the plant. It caused significant damage to the facility’s production capability and structural damage to some of the building.
The Caldwell facility is vital to Darigold’s operations, housing one of the largest butter churns in the United States and accounting for a significant portion of the company’s butter and milk powder production, including non-fat dry milk and skim milk powder. Prior to the fire, the plant processed some 1.4 million pounds of milk per day.
The company’s farmer-owners throughout Idaho depend on the Caldwell facility for their livelihoods, as do more than 100 employees who work at the facility. No employees were injured in the blaze.
“When news of the fire broke, our first concern was for the safety and well-being of our employees in Caldwell, who acted with great courage and urgency to help ensure that everyone was safely evacuated from the building,” said Joe Coote, CEO at Darigold, who was in Caldwell to welcome employees back to the facility and thank them for their hard work and flexibility since the fire.
“When we knew that our employees were safe, we directed the full weight of our co-op to ensuring that milk pickups would continue in order to mitigate losses for our hard-working farmer owners, finding temporary work assignments for our displaced employees, increasing production in other Darigold facilities to mitigate disruption to our supply chain to the extent we could and resuming production as soon it was feasible.”
Resuming partial butter production in Caldwell required Darigold and its teams of contractors to demolish or secure parts of the building that suffered the most significant damage, repair fire and smoke damage in the butter production sections, thoroughly clean and sanitize all of the butter production areas and re-run utilities from the main portion of the plant to butter production areas.
Work continues on other parts of the facility where damage was more severe, and milk powder production remains entirely shutdown.
“We were able to meet our initial objectives but not without the help of so many people, all of whom deserve our heartfelt thanks,” Coote said. “Today we had the chance to meet with the mayor, police chief, two fire chiefs and the director of public works to reiterate how grateful we are for all of the support and partnership we’ve received from them and from around this community.
“So many people have helped us in our efforts to recover from this incident – from our employees to first responders on the scene, city officials and the teams of contractors and engineers who’ve helped in the rebuilding efforts – and we are beyond grateful for the support we’ve received since this incident occurred.”
“Darigold has been a pillar to this community for decades, and we are overjoyed they are able to continue doing what they do best, right here in this great city,” said Jarom Wagoner, Caldwell mayor. “The city of Caldwell will continue to support them as they make their way back to full operation. We hope they know this community stands behind them, supports them and appreciates all the great things they do.”
The Caldwell facility first opened in 1930 and became part of Darigold’s operations in 1990, when Dairymen’s Creamer Association merged with Darigold. The plant has been updated and expanded over the years, including a multimillion-dollar expansion in 2018.
Darigold Inc. is the marketing and processing subsidiary of Northwest Dairy Association, which is owned by nearly 350 dairy farm families in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana. Darigold handles approximately 10 billion pounds of milk annually and produces a full line of dairy-based products for retail, foodservice, commodity and specialty markets. Darigold Inc. operates 11 plants throughout the Northwest, processing high-quality milk produced by NDA farm families.
For more information, visit darigold.com.