Path Home Shows 2016 Show Archive December 2016 Show 1650 Lovera’s Cheese Goodness

Lovera’s Cheese Goodness

Since 1907, Lovera’s has brought its distinct Italian flavors from the mountains of Piemonte to the plains of Oklahoma.
Lovera’s Cheese Goodness

Lovera’s Cheese Goodness

For more information visit these links:

Lovera’s Handcrafted Foods

Pontotoc Technology Center


Show Details

Show 1650: Lovera’s Cheese Goodness
Air Date: December 11, 2016



Rob McClendon: Hello, everyone. Thanks for joining us here on “Horizon.” I’m Rob McClendon. In the simplest of terms, value added is when you take a homogeneous product and add something special that makes it worth more than the cost of its underlying parts. Now, this can be as simple as adding a brand name to an otherwise generic product, or as complex as assembling something in such a way it becomes unique, and subsequently, more valuable. And nowhere is value added more profitable than in the food industry, where the cost of raw commodities often just make up pennies of the actual purchase price of the end products. Our Austin Moore starts off with a look at the value of adding value in Krebs, Oklahoma.

Austin Moore: For those travelers in search of the best cuisine, Italy is likely at the top of the list. The country is famous for wine, pasta, and especially for cheese. But if Italy is out of reach, Krebs, Oklahoma, will take you on its own tasty journey.

Sam Lovera: If you go to Rome you aren’t going to get a meal like you would in Krebs. Or vice versa. It has kind of evolved. It is Italian style but it has evolved from a Depression era Italian.

Austin: Sam Lovera is the owner of Lovera’s Italian Grocery, a store his father opened in 1946.

Lovera: It was just a neighborhood store. And my brother, my sister and I, my mother and he, we all lived upstairs in the apartment above.

Austin: Today, Lovera’s is known not just as a destination store for Italian ingredients, but also for the sausage they produce and for the cheese.

Lovera: It’s called Caciocavallo. It is called a pasta filata-style. The other cheese in that family would be mozzarella and provolone. So it is really great. It’s just a table cheese. I mean you just cut it off. Eat it. Or you can melt it. It’s a stretch curd. You get the milk and you stretch it in hot water. And you make a gourd out of it. Like a gourd so you can hang it and dry it. We make world-class cheese. Right here in Oklahoma. Most people wouldn’t believe that, but we make as good a cheese as anybody in the world right here.

Austin: A claim his cheese maker and son-in-law Shawn Duffy can back up.

Shawn Duffy: We have had the opportunity to garner 11 national and international awards since 2012. Our Caciocavera cheese, our traditional, was voted the best mild provolone in the world in 2012 in England. Our smoked cheese, our hickory smoked cheese, just two years ago in Sacramento, California, was voted the best smoked cheese in the country.

Austin: Of course, the story is not really about the cheese. Not really. It’s about the jobs.

Duffy: Unlike most industries that are sort of downsizing the amount of employees with the use of robotics and other technologies, artisan cheese is very much in and of itself a labor intensive process. And so just innate in its nature is the opportunity to develop jobs and those things because it is very hands on. There is a lot of labor involved. These cheeses need meticulous attention whilst they are aging for the three to four months. Even in the production room there is just an amazing amount of work that goes into every batch.

Austin: And every cheese has different demands in both production and aging. So when Lovera’s wanted to expand their line, the small facility onsite wasn’t enough. Enter Pontotoc Technology Center and their small business incubator, which normally helps startups grow.

Hershel Williams: Anywhere from IT, from computer programs that they use on their books, their record keeping, to office clerical skills that we help train their employees, if they need soft skills, we do that right here at Pontotoc Technology Center.

Austin: Hershel Williams works with agriculture business management at Pontotoc.

Williams: We provide rooms for meetings and equipment that they couldn’t normally invest in, that we have here at Pontotoc Technology Center that they have access too. Normally, our companies stay here three years. We help them get established and get them on their feet, and then they move on. The cheese plant people, they’ll be here. The only time they’ll leave here is if they outgrow the facility and build a bigger facility for them to move to.

Matteo Lovera-Pizano: This is about 400 gallons of milk. But we will probably get around 25 to 26, 10 to 12 pound wheels out of it. So almost 300 pounds of cheese from 400 gallons of milk. So very good yield.

Austin: Lovera’s is using this location to create a different line of wheel cheeses known as Toma, with plans for a rustic gorgonzola to follow.

Duffy: This facility opens up all sorts of opportunities for us to expand, hire on new people and bring on new dairies and that sort of thing.

Austin: With the installation of a new food grade floor thanks to the Ada Jobs Foundation, the school board here saw an opportunity to create new jobs for Ada with Lovera’s hiring a local crew and to shore up some in the region’s oldest industry.

Williams: We had a need for farmers and ranchers here in this southeast Oklahoma to have a place to produce their goat milk. There wasn’t any place in Oklahoma. This is the only cheese manufacturing place in Oklahoma that uses goat milk and cow’s milk, and this gives an opportunity for a small-time family to come in and put a hundred goats in. Completely different than a hundred cows. Not near the expense to go into it. And make a profit at it. And that’s the key point. No need to do it for practice. So we need to do it for a profit.

Austin: Cross Broom Farms supplies goat milk to Lovera’s. Owner Becky Wise.

Becky Wise: Right now we have 125. We have three bucks that are in the pen back yonder. And now we’ve got some little ones as you can see in the pen out there. But, yeah, but all of these girls we love them to death.

Austin: With a state-of-the-art facility and the caring heart of a mother, Wise is working to build this dairy into supplying milk year round.

Wise: The goal is to breed a third. Wait a month. Breed a third. Wait a month. Breed a third. That way you have always got a cycle going. And then eventually everybody will be online. And then you start the process all over.

Austin: For Wise, there was no greater thrill than the first time she saw what Duffy and his team were creating.

Wise: He had wheels of goat milk cheese. And I was just like “Is that ours?” and he said, “Yeah. That come from your goats.” And I was like, golly, that’s just awesome. It’s awesome. That’s my milk. That is my milk. And I helped make that product. But that is the whole thing. That is the whole point of it. I want to help create or help somebody create with our milk another food source for people out in the world to eat.

Austin: A goal shared and embraced by Sam Lovera and his family.

Lovera: It makes us feel so great to be able to keep them in business, and you are able to keep their business going by what we are doing.

Rob: Now, if you’d like to taste some of this cheese, it is available online or in Whole Foods Market in Oklahoma City or Reasor’s Foods in Tulsa. Now, when we return, adding value in the classroom.