Video: The Sikhs Who Make Italy's Famous Grana Padano Cheese

[VIDEO] A new documentary Sikh Formaggio looks at how the community almost saved the industry from complete collapse aft...

The community moved to Italy in the 1990s.

Mar 2, 2015: Pessina Cremonese in northern Italy is known for its hard Grana Padano cheese. But unlike other cheeses that might be made by the locals of the area, this cheese at least depends on an unusual community of immigrants: Sikhs.

A new documentary Sikh Formaggio looks at how the community almost saved the industry from complete collapse after locals began to move away to better jobs.

It is not unusual to hear of Sikhs involved in agriculture, but they became integral to cheese making in Italy only in the 1990s. As Italians began to move away from Pessina Cremonese and the manual labour that goes into the making of cheese, Sikh immigrants moved in. Sixteen percent of Pessina Cremonese’s population are immigrants. Most of them are of Indian origin.

A typical day at a cheese industry begins at 5.30 in the morning and ends late in the day. It involves mucking about machines and long, hard labour. Unlike the Italians who left for white-collar jobs, these immigrants had no problem with odd hours or hard labour. Now comfortably settled in the country, their children are now contemplating a shift to easier work, which might mean the industry will face another vacuum in the decades to come.

Published on Dec 19, 2014

Sikh Formaggio: How a generation of Sikh immigrants have been absorbed into the heart of the Italian cheese industry.

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As locals fled the region for greener pastures, Northern Italy's cheese industry was under threat. But thanks to Sikh migrants, some traditional dairies have preserved a small slice of Italian culture.

There are nearly 16,000 Indian migrants employed on Italian farms, mainly in the country's North. Many, like Jaspinder's father, arrived in search of employment familiar to their roots. "My dad is from an agriculture tradition, so when he came here he didn't find that big difference between Punjab and Italy." As the Sikhs attempt to keep their culture and traditions strong in their new home, they are also helping to preserve a piece of Italy's culture - the art of making parmesan cheese. This report explores these two cultures whose similarities and differences merge for the betterment of each other.

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