PALMER - Matanuska Creamery was filling one of its final orders.
“We're going to be doing the chocolate school milk for Valley schools,” creamery pasteurizer Jaimie Church said.
In a few days, the creamery will close its doors for good.
“We know it's shutting down, and we're just... keeping going, so that we can get the product out.”
After defaulting on nearly $900,000 in state loans, the decision to recall those loans was made earlier this month. The deadline for a reprieve from that recall has come and gone. And now, as the operation shuts down, so, too does a majority of the production of Alaska-grown milk, butter, and ice cream.
“To have fresh product to be able to do that with is a dream that I never thought I would be able to do,” said Marie Turner. She’s been behind many of the recipes for the creamery’s butter and ice cream products. “And now it's gone.”
Karen Olson is the CEO of Matanuska Creamery. She’s been running it since 2008.
“It feels bad!” she said. But she knows there have been problems from the beginning.
“We kept trying with the old Mat-Maid equipment, a little bit too low raw milk supply, and too high overhead,” she said about the creamery’s struggles. Matanuska Creamery acquired what Olson said was inadequate equipment after the Matanuska Maid creamery closed in 2007.
“That's the fan club right there,” Olson said, pointing to a collection of dairy cow trinkets and letters of support from community groups and classrooms in the valley. Plastering the walls and filling office shelves, they were a reminder of local support the creamery enjoyed.
“But on Sunday, we're gonna box it all up,” Olson said.
Fifteen people will be out of work when the creamery closes. But for other dairy farmers in the Valley, the news could also mean an end. With only one other facility in Palmer that can process their raw milk — a facility whose owner says is already struggling to sell enough product — they’ll have few options.
And in the wake of the closure, nearly a million dollars of defaulted state loans will also go down the drain -- defaulted loans that the state attorney general’s office says will ultimately see less than half of.
“Suppliers, employees, farmers, customers, and private investors, all outta luck… and it's really a shame,” Olson said.