Take a bite out of the South’s oldest cheese factory
The color most frequently associated with North Carolina’s mountains is blue — as in Blue Ridge. But in the Ashe County community of West Jefferson, the color residents most identify with is yellow — as in cheese. West Jefferson is home to Ashe County Cheese, the South’s oldest cheese factory. In 1930, the Kraft Company consolidated several small community cheese plants in the Blue Ridge Mountains to form Ashe County Cheese. Today the factory produces an average of 30,000 pounds of cheese each week and is operated by Newburg Corners Cheese Inc. and its Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker Tom Torkelson. The milk used comes from dairy farms within 70 miles and is stored in three tanks shaped and painted to look like cows. Visitors can take a free look at the operations from a viewing room open year-round, though the cheese-making schedule varies each week. Ashe County Cheese sells more than 20 varieties of original Ashe County cheese as well as its own butter, homemade fudge and fresh cheese curd.
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