Part 1 of a 3part series on the legacy of Jacobo “Jack” Marti and how his choices continue to affect
New Wilmington to this day.
As you travel out of New Wilmington towards Route 18 you can’t help but notice The Cheese House and the large cheese plant on the corner of Route 208 and Route 18. This cheese plant has a very interesting history that you wouldn’t know just from looking at it from the red light. Jack Marti went from being a man with a dream, to owning the largest Swiss cheese manufacturing plant under one roof in the world! By the time Jack Marti officially retired as manager in 1998, the cheese plant (then owned by Dairy Farmers of America) was producing over 300,000 pounds of cheese a day. At one time this amazing plant employed over 200 employees and many in the community today can tell stories of working at the cheese plant for their first job.
Jacobo “Jack” Marti was born on October 28, 1927 in Mar Del Plata, Argentina. What you may not know is why Jack was born in Argentina instead of his family’s native Switzerland? At this time if you wanted to own a cheese plant in Switzerland the only way you could do this was to have a cheese plant passed down to you from your family. Jacks father was a cheese maker that was not content with just working at a cheese plant, he was an entrepreneur and wanted to own his own cheese plant. Jack’s father went to Argentina to work in a cheese factory hoping to start his own plant and be his own boss. About a year later, Jack’s mother took a boat to Argentina, where they got married. Approximately one year later, Jack was born. Unfortunately for Jack and his Mother, his Father died when he was only a few months old. Jack and his Mother moved back to Switzerland to be by family and friends.
Apparently, cheese was in the blood because when he came of age, Jack became a cheese makers apprentice and later obtained a degree in Milk School and one in Business Administration from Bern, Switzerland. As Jack finished school he was getting more confident in his cheese making skills, but that wasn’t all… Jack was an amazing Wrestler! In fact, Jack was a member of the 1948 Swiss Olympic Wrestling team. Unfortunately, due to an elbow injury, Jack wasn’t able to complete in the Olympics that year and he refocused all his energy on his dream of owning his own cheese plant.
When Jack Marti was focused on a goal, he didn’t let anything distract him from accomplishing it. Knowing that he would never be able to own his own cheese plant in his native Switzerland, Jack got his credentials together and in 1951 he came to Holmesville, Ohio where he worked at the Holmes Cheese Factory making Swiss Cheese of course! Jack was guaranteed 1 year of employment and after that he left Holmes to go to Brewster Cheese to share his cheese skills with another company.
Around Christmas in 1952 something unexpected happened to Jack, he met Jane! Jane was immediately taken with this interesting immigrant with great physique and a wonderful accent. In February 1953, determined to have his own cheese plant, Jack went to Wisconsin to look at a plant that was currently for sale. Before Jack left for Wisconsin he had to do one important thing, he asked Jane if she would move to Wisconsin if he bought the cheese plant. Well wouldn’t you know, Jane said yes! Thankfully for all of us, the Wisconsin cheese plant didn’t fit into the dream that Jack Marti had and he didn’t end up purchasing it. Jack and Jane were married in October of 1953 and their future was right around the corner.
One day a friend from Fredonia, PA told Jack that the Amish were looking for someone to build a cheese factory so all the farmers would have a local place to sell their milk. During this time the dairy industry was tightening regulations and the Amish in the area were no longer able to use their milk for Grade A milk products because they didn’t have electric coolers in their farms. Well this was just perfect for a cheese maker; all of this milk could be used to produce quality cheese and Jack was just the man to make it! So, in 1955 Jack and a 7 months pregnant Jane moved to New Wilmington where they founded, owned, and operated Farmers Cheese and began making Swiss Cheese.
This determined couple definitely knew how to take their curds with their whey; they worked together to build an ever-expanding cheese plant. This new family lived in an apartment on top of the cheese plant where Jane raised 5 children in-between doing the books and payroll for their ever-expanding company. Eventually the family built a separate home, but they were never far away, the new home was only 1 mile away. To this day however, the Marti children say they wouldn’t trade the upbringing they had at the cheese plant, they loved it!
Just when things seemed they couldn’t get bigger they did! Jack and Jane’s cheese plant was dedicated to making Swiss cheese for the first 23 years, along with cheddar and longhorn, but in 1978 the demand changed and they added Provolone and Mozzarella to their production line. The addition of these cheeses was not only financially beneficial, but also very practical. You see, it takes 63 days of curing before you can sell Swiss cheese due to the fact that the milk used in Swiss cheese is not pasteurized, this became a logistical problem as the amount of cheese made per day increased. At one point, Jack had to rent space at New Castle Storage to store his Swiss cheese! The addition of Provolone and Mozzarella that could be packaged and shipped daily was a welcome sight.
Jack and Jane were entrepreneurs, so Jack approached a man named Joe Savoldi about renting out a building Joe owned that now stood empty. At one time, Joe made spaghetti and pizza sauce, and sold it to many stores. Jack and Joe decided to become business partners and Savoldi Cheese Company in West Middlesex was born! This venture was a bit different for them, they made artificial cheese and mixtures of artificial and real cheese for pizza companies. I bet Jack never dreamed that he would have been part of a business like this! Mr. Marti and Mr. Savoldi were great friends and they enjoyed owning the company together. Eventually, like the Farmers Cheese Co-Op, Savoldi Cheese was sold to the Dairy Farmers of America.
Jane and the rest of the family still have very fond memories of the cheese plant and wouldn’t change a thing. As you will see in the next 2 articles on the Marti family, our story isn’t finished. The legacy of Jacobo Marti and his wife Jane is alive and living on through the next generations of the Marti family. When I asked Mrs. Marti what her and her late husband’s favorite type of cheese was the answer was: “My favorite cheese is Longhorn, but Jacks of course was Swiss.” Thanks for reading Jenny’s Pennies, I hope you enjoyed this article about how a cheese making man, a wife with math skills, and Amish dairy farmers with milk to spare helped make one of the most amazing cheese plants in the world.