The Union of Agricultural Cooperatives of Naxos (EAS Naxou), founded in 1926 and rapidly growing ever since, is the driving force of the agricultural sector of the island and a powerful engine for its economic growth. Currently, the Union of Agricultural Cooperatives of Naxos counts 26 member cooperatives and a total of 3,274 participating members (farmers, stock farmers).
Cheese making constitutes the main field of activity of EAS Naxou. The Union created its first dairy farm in 1961 and a modern dairy and cheese making facility in the area of Glynado in 1985 that rightfully ensured a place for EAS in the competitive cheese market.
Nowadays, EAS produces principally Graviera Naxou (protected under PDO status) and kefalotyri (a very hard, sheep’s- or goat’s milk cheese with a tangy flavour and a sharp aroma) while it absorbs a total of approximately 12,000 tonnes of milk annually, i.e. over 70% of the local milk production, for its dairy products. EAS is an exemplary confederation with a sound budget and no pending fiscal obligations. Currently, it exports more than 60 tonnes of products and has a well-founded ambitious plan to triple them.
EAS Naxou produces more than 1000 tonnes of a wide range of dairy products and cheeses, such as Graviera Naxou (protected under PDO status), arseniko (cheese made from a combination of sheep’s and goat’s milk), xynomyzithra (a traditional fresh cheese made from goat’s milk), xynotyri (xynomyzithra left to dry for several weeks), myzithra (whey cheese made from feta and kefalotyri by-products), anthotyro (cheese made with fresh whey), milk, cream, butter, yoghurt.
EAS Naxou continuously experiments on new products. In summer 2015, together with the Chief of EAS cheese making department, a young man named Iakovos Dimitrokalis, graduate of the Dairy Farming School in Ioannina, I was lucky enough to be among the first ones to taste two new experimental versions of graviera cheeses, the one with local herbs and the other with truffle oil.
Care to know a few things about how the milk collection process is organized? The cooperative of Naxos collects cow, sheep and goat milk from approximately 500 stock farmers. Milk is collected in milk collection points, strategically located at several spots throughout the island. From these collection points, all equipped with cold storage facilities, milk is loaded into tanker tracks and transported to dairy farms twice a day, so that cheese is made within 8 hours maximum from the moment it is delivered at the collection points. Throughout the entire processing cycle, from collection to curing and packaging, cheese undergoes special tests and measurements for ensuring that the products’ quality specifications are adhered to.
The supermarket of the Union of Agricultural Cooperatives of Naxos is situated on the road leading to the port of the island.