Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Town gets one-up over the big smoke

It’s not often the small towns get one over the cities, but Bob Holschier has a long memory.

July 1, 2014 3:02am

Bob Holschier after the opening of the $10 million upgrade.

It’s not often the small towns get one over the cities, but Bob Holschier has a long memory.

Last week Fonterra started production of ricotta cheese at its Stanhope factory after a $10million upgrade.

Established in 1923, the factory is right in the middle of the town of less than 500 people.

Historically a dairy-based community, it’s barely a stop-over on the Midland Hwy that runs from Shepparton to Bendigo.

A predecessor company, Ibis, once owned factories in Shepparton and Stanhope.

Mr Holschier recalls the small town was once rife with speculation that the Shepparton plant, half an hour’s drive from Stanhope, would expand and Stanhope would close.

Mr Holschier, a former dairy farmer and supplier to Ibis and the previous Stanhope co-operative, stood in the brand new factory extension last week and marvelled at the millions of dollars that have been spent.

Closures such as the Heinz factory at nearby Girgarre send a chill through one-industry towns such as Stanhope.

‘‘From the time I came here 50 years ago, the increase in production and development of the site has been fantastic,’’ Mr Holschier said.

‘‘But there was a stage where we thought we might lose everything to Shepparton. When Ibis was formed, between Shepparton Butter Factory and the Stanhope Co-operative we thought a lot of it would have gone to Shepparton.

‘‘But it was actually reversed. Because it was situated in Shepparton, it was not a viable proposition to develop it in the city.

‘‘So most of it came to Stanhope and the administration came back here too.’’

It then became Bonlac.

‘‘Since Fonterra has taken over it has gone ahead in leaps and bounds,’’ he said.

‘‘It gives us locals a great deal of confidence in the future of this factory, at the same time we are concerned with other problems associated with the dairy industry around here.’’

Mr Holschier has noticed the numbers of farms in the district has reduced.

‘‘We used to say there were about 1000 cows per square mile being milked by about seven families,’’ he said.

‘‘That was the case in the mile where I was.

‘‘At the moment there has not been one cow milked in that square mile.’’

He blames access to water as being one of the issues.

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