Cheesemaker Paul Croser retires from Beston Pure Foods' Murray Bridge dairy factory after 49 years in industry

An era has ended at Murray Bridge's dairy factory with the retirement of award-winning cheesemaker Paul Croser after 49 years.

Leaving his workplace "family" will be tough, but as it got harder to spend all day climbing the stairs between the cheesemaking vats, he realised it was time.

"After all these years, when somebody says 'this is your last vat of cheese, you're not going to do this any more', it brings a tear to your eye," he said.

Mr Croser has worked through every chapter in the factory's long history: from its ownership by Farmer's Union to National Foods, United Dairy Power and Beston Pure Foods, among others along the way.

He recalled the gatherings that used to be put on for all staff and their families, down at the racecourse because they could not fit them all on-site.

He got his start as a labourer at Jacobs Dairy Produce in Mount Barker, where he spent 10 years working over the vats before transferring to Murray Bridge around 1980.

He worked in the packing area for a few years before returning to the vat room where the cheese was made.

Cheddar, romero, parmesan, colby, edam, Aussie all-rounder, even a gruyere which was named a champion cheese at the 2018 Royal Adelaide Show – he made it all, working through early hours and late, pouring thousands of litres of milk into the vats, adding cultures, then rennet to set the cheese.

The vats would agitate one way and cut the other, mixing and cooking at temperatures intended to produce precisely the right texture and taste: some around 38 degrees, some as high as 50, cool by household cooking standards.

About five hours after arriving as milk, the curds and whey would be pumped into the next room at the factory to be separated, milled, salted, dropped into tubs and eventually brought out in 20-kilogram wheels.

In the same warm, damp room where the modern machinery now stands there were once open vats, and the cheese was cut by hand.

"When we got these, we thought we'd never had it so easy," he said.

What was secret to his longevity in the role?

"I never hated my job," he said.

"The job I did, I tried to do to the best of my ability – that's what kept me going.

"I never woke up in the morning and said 'I don't want to go to work'."

He planned to spend the first part of his retirement travelling to Melbourne to take in some footy matches.

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