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Restoring Donalda's Award-Winning Creamery

Donalda Creamery
Photo supplied by Donalda Museum November 27, 2023 at 7:30 pm

Zoe DeCnodder is an enthusiastic champion of the Donalda Creamery.

This creamery produced the award-winning Donalda Maid Butter during its heyday from 1941 to 1987.

"There is so much I could say in regards to the creamery and its historical significance," says the manager/curator of the Donalda & District Museum. "It's filled with equipment from its days of operation, including older, original artifacts as well as machines from when the business shut down in 1987."

The Creamery is currently undergoing a restoration, which began in 2017.

"Abatement needed to be done on building for health and safety reasons, and the building itself began to show its age," she says. "Due to lack of funding, and then being placed on hold during Covid-19, the project did not truly take off until 2022."

Donalda Creamery before
The Donalda Creamery before it was painted in September. Image: Donalda Musum

The remediation and siding have been restored on the building.

"Next year (2024) we hope to complete the exterior renovations which will include the roof, doors and window," says DeCnodder. "Then, by 2025, we can begin the interior restoration, such as electrical and equipment repairs."

The Province considers the building historically valuable because of its association with "the development of the dairy industry in Alberta", and has included it on the Alberta Register of Historic places.

The Register also notes the architecture is significant, because it's "an excellent example of small-scale industrial architecture adapted for use in the dairy industry."

Donalda Creamery after painting
The Donalda Creamery now. Image: Donalda Musum

DeCnodder says creamery, originally named Woodland Dairy, first opened in 1924 and was changed to the Donalda Cooperative Creamery in 1937. (The current building was constructed in 1955.)

"During its operational years, it was one of the main sources of income for many locals and surrounding farmers," says DeCnodder. "Groceries were often delivered with empty cans to be returned to farmers during harvest time when they were busy in the fields."

Cream for the butter was supplied by farmers from Big Valley to Edberg, and Halkirk to Bashaw.

Surprisingly, the creamery also included an egg-grading station, which was eventually shut down due to updated government regulations.

"When the Creamery shut down, it was the last known local farmer owned and operated Creamery in Central Alberta following the creation of the Central Alberta Dairy Pool," says DeCnodder.

The hope is to open the newly-restored Creamery in 2026. "However, this depends on funding and contractor availability, because it is a massive undertaking for our small local community society."

Even so, you can sense her anticipation for the completed project. "All that history is just sitting in the dark," she says, "waiting to be explored again."

Stettler Local Editor

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