RIVERINA cheese lovers should prepare to gorge.
Coolamon Cheese Company directors Barry Lillywhite, Anton Green and Neil Druce announced this week they have secured two buildings to develop a $2.38 million cheese factory in Coolamon, with construction expected to start mid to late next year.
The vision is to resurrect the original 1921 Coolamon Co-operative Society building and develop a specialised tourism, education and cheese production facility that features handcraft boutique cheeses under the guidance of Australia's most experienced cheesemaker, Barry Lillywhite.
With 40 years in the cheese industry up his sleeve, Mr Lillywhite currently distributes ingredients to make cheese around Australia.
"After three years of hard work and planning, the project is coming to fruition with real milestones being reached," he said.
"It's going to be a major tourism attraction for the whole Riverina."
The multimillion-dollar project is privately funded, but the company has six months to secure the remaining investment required to see construction begin.
They have secured the privately owned old IGA building and the hairdresser and jewellery store on the main street.
"We have the option to buy the property," Mr Lillywhite said, estimating they had about a third of what was needed.
"We have six months to raise the money to progress the project further."
The front section of the development will be the Cheese Kitchen, where visitors taste cheese and cheese-inspired meals, watch it be hand-crafted, learn the history of cheese and learn to make their own.
The back half of the building will feature a custom designed cheese factory, which Mr Lillywhite is helping design.
It will include a large viewing corridor for visitors to watch the manufacturing and maturing processes.
The directors have also planned an al fresco area and rear courtyard that will feature Coolamon's original wood-fired bakery, which is more than 100 years old.
The company hopes to employ up to 15 full-time positions, including plans for Australia's first indigenous trainee cheesemaker.
"It's terrific," he said.
"We've already started negotiations and they'll help with the selection of that person and the mentoring of that person."
They've also secured a young French cheesemaker with experience across France, England and Australia.
The company has confirmed a Euberta dairy farm wil provide the milk, and is in negotatiations with another sheep and goat dairy.