Western Dairies, a co-op known all over Belize for its dairy products, was founded by 16 farmers and business men in 1967 in two wooden buildings, about 30`x 48` in the heart of Spanish Lookout. It was not easy to establish the dairy. There was no electricity and most of the equipment was used, creating many maintenance problems, which were solved by the hard work of the board members themselves. For example ice water is needed to cool pasteurized milk to 38 degrees Fahrenheit. When the ice builder machine malfunctioned someone had to hurry to San Ignacio to buy ice and if a local repair could not be done, it was necessary to call a refrigerator man from Orange Walk. In the ‘60s that was a major trip! A boiler was needed to heat the milk. But obtaining a satisfactory boiler wasn’t easy either (see Pioneer Years in Belize pages 92-94). An old locomotive boiler was finally purchased from the government of Belize but it was on top of an 800-ft. high hill and presented a formidable task to transport it to Spanish Lookout. The boiler is actually a steel water tank with tubes installed horizontally from one end to the other. Water flows all around the tubes and hot air, fired by wood, travels in the tubes from one end to the other and out the chimney. The water in the tank turns into steam and with it the pasteurizer is heated. To get enough dry fire wood and to fire the boiler every morning was quite a job. Later a small kerosene-fired boiler was bought. But leaking pipes were a constant problem and had to be replaced with new ones. A new, modern boiler was bought in the eighties which solved most of the problems. This one served until 2002 when it was replaced with a bigger one.

The first milk-packing machine, like the other equipment, was an old machine and caused a lot of headache to get it going and keep it going. In a couple of years a more modern machine was set up. In the late 80’s a brand new “NIMCO” packing machine was bought. Even though it gave less trouble it had one continuing problem: leaking cartons, which created an occasional big mess in the milk storage room and in merchants’ coolers! Nevertheless, this machine served until 2003 when it was replaced with a 12- head straight-line bottle filler.

The first deliveries were made in a 1959 half-ton Chevy for $22.50 a trip to Belize City. Around 1969 a small 6-wheel truck with a custom-built caboose-type box on it was used for hauling both milk and passengers. In 1981 Western Dairies bought their first new Mazda truck with an insulated van box from Costa Rica. This made it possible to do more deliveries in town and the sales went up. The cooling system of the first trucks had ice plates inside the box, operated by an electric motor which had to be plugged in to the current in the home of the driver. The next morning the plate was very cold and stayed icy till about noon. Delivery trucks that were bought later had a cooling system driven by a gas motor. This made it possible to keep the milk cool all day long.

In 1977 the first addition to the facility, cold storage rooms, was one of the first buildings of poured concrete in Spanish Lookout. Material to make the cement forms was brought in from Mexico. About seven years later, being in great need of more space, WD built a complete building with a second floor over the old wooden one. After the main wall and roof were there, the old building was broken down and carried out piece by piece. During all this mess, the plant had to operate every day. With several more additions during the following years WD now has a floor space of 17,850 sq ft. including the retail/restaurant facility adjoining the plant.

Joe L. Friesen, Hermy Wolfe with an American who assists them in putting new machinery in at Western.

The electric power system in Spanish Lookout today is a direct expansion of the power system required and established by WD. The first generator was a used one, imported in the early seventies from the U.S. It, too, was troublesome. After that first one only new sets were purchased. As neighbors saw an opportunity to obtain electricity 24 hrs. a day, they hooked up to WD’s current. Soon WD installed electric lines all over Spanish Lookout to supply farmers with current. For many years the electricity business was a big help to Western Dairies; often the net income from electricity sales was more than from milk sales. Since 2002 the milk and electricity departments have become two separate businesses: Western Dairies and Farmers Light Plant Corporation.

Belize Ag Report