Historical accounts are always more accurate when recounted by people with first hand knowledge of the places and people involved.
That’s why Ron Anderson’s recollections of the Villa Nova Milk Factory are so definitive and compelling.
Anderson, who turns 91 in November, literally grew up next door to the business which became the cornerstone of the community and whose influence extended throughout the province and even nationally.
What began as a cheese factory in 1872 was transformed into a creamery in 1922 that served more than 800 milk producers from Haldimand, Brant and Norfolk counties daily.
The hustle and bustle surrounding the factory inspired Anderson to write a book later in his life from the perspective of his youth entitled “Adventures of Joey—Growing up in Villa Nova.”
“It’s a snapshot of time gone by,” he said. “I can still hear the cans clanking, the wooden churn and people yelling.”
Major growth occurred when the company began to manufacture skim milk powder and landed major customers such as Christie’s Bread and Dad’s Cookies, as well as Carnation and Nestle’s.
Community involvement peaked when private ownership became the Villa Nova Milk Products Co-operative in 1946. Heyday of the Co-op occurred in the early 1960s when more than 50,000,000 pounds of raw milk was produced by local farmers. Villa Nova butter and cheese were also winners in competitions at the Canadian National Exhibition and Royal Winter Fair.
Anderson said the Co-op was heavily involved in the community and sponsored the Villa Nova Co-ops who won the All-Ontario Intermediate B fastball championship in 1961.
However, success turned out to be fleeting as the Ontario government created the Ontario Milk Marketing Board in the late 1960s.
Co-op shares were bought out and marketing rights were sold.
“The Villa Nova Factory became history after a century of pride and service and, some thought a victim of corporate greed,” said Anderson.
Today there is little left of a business that made Villa Nova proud and prosperous. Anderson said the factory employed 28 well paid employees, as well as dedicated local leaders.
Anderson continues to promote the Villa Nova factory with a passion and is spearheading the erection of a historical plaque to mark the site, as well as consulting on a display at the Waterford Heritage and Agricultural Museum.
“History will keep the memories alive,” Anderson said.