Califonia Bountiful

Joseph Farms

Innovative farm turns cow pies into power.

Sure, we recognize the name Gallo as being synonymous with California wine, but what goes better with wine than cheese, right? Enter Joseph Gallo, brother to wine entrepreneurs Ernest and Julio Gallo. Joseph left the family wine business in the 1980s, took a handwritten recipe for making cheese and followed his dreams to Merced County. He remained farming there until he passed away in 2007, and now it's up to son Michael and grandson Peter to advance Joseph's dream of sustainable farming and continue the Gallo legacy in agriculture.

Just like the family's wine business, which is the largest family-owned winery in the world, nothing is done small around Joseph Farms either. With more than $3 billion in cheese sales annually, Joseph Farms is one of California's largest cheese-making operations, producing everything from mozzarella to pepper Jack to sharp cheddar. The family and staff see to the process of cheese making from cow to curd, even growing their own feed for their herd of cows. Today, the company is almost entirely vertically integrated, an important milestone because the family believes this strategy is vital to ensuring quality from pasture to plate.

Joseph Farms makes 100,000 pounds of cheese a day, which means a lot of milk from a lot of cows that also make a lot of something else—a lot of cow pies, shall we say? But in order to keep with Joseph's beliefs of staying sustainable, the family came up with a solution. They built one of the first methane digesters in the state, which turns cow pies into power.

The system produces biogas from cow manure in a seven-acre covered lagoon anaerobic digester. The gas is scrubbed and piped to two power generators, which produce a total of 700 kilowatts of electricity. The cow power provides almost 80 percent of the electricity needs for the cheese plant.

The farm is so committed to extending Joseph's legacy of loving the land around him that they donated an area around the farm to the state of California and to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to create an environmental preserve for waterfowl. It's all part of the larger vision Joseph had when he started this venture. Having grown up on a farm, he had always enjoyed the outdoors and believed that wildlife and agriculture are fully compatible and that connection should be protected for generations to come.

And as long as people are enjoying the products they make on the farm, the next generation says it will continue Joseph Gallo's legacy in the world of sustainable agriculture. After all, what tastes better than the success of knowing you've left something better than the way you found it?

"I have a lot of pride in what my family has done," Peter Gallo said. "And I'm just proud to be a part of it in any way I can."

For more information about Joseph Farms, visit

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