The Co-op Connection
by Robin LeDrew
Settlers from France pioneered the cheese industry in Canada dating back to 1610. By the mid-19th century a single family farm in southern Ontario was producing 30,000 pounds of cheese. In 1864 the first co-operative cheese factory was opened in Canada. Canada’s reputation for cheese production was promoted by the creation of a 7,300-pound Mammoth Cheese, which was sent to a fair in Saratoga, New York, and then to England. A few years later an 11 ton cheese was displayed at the Chicago World’s Fair before being shipped on tour to England. Canada’s first dairy school opened in 1892 in Saint-Hyacinthe, Québec. By the turn of the twentieth century there were 1,242 cheddar factories in Ontario, and cheddar had become Canada’s second largest export behind timber. In 1952 Britain cut off all cheddar cheese imports from Canada. More than 100 Canadian cheddar factories closed over the next two years. By 2012, Canada was a net importer of cheese, and a manufactured cheese product, "Kraft Dinner" macaroni and cheese, had become Canada's most popular grocery product. (Source, Ted Thaler of cheesehound.ca and Wikipedia)
In the 1980’s, however, Canada saw a comeback in the production of fine, artisanal cheese. According to Kathy Guidi: (author of ‘Canadian Cheese: a Guide’ available in the OK Regional Library) “The variety and quality of Canadian cheeses has never been so high nor has it been so popular. New handcrafted cheeses continue to emerge to critical acclaim, winning international awards.”
We are very lucky to have European immigrants (and Canadians inspired by European cheeses) producing fine artisanal cheeses right here in the North Okanagan. Triple Island Farm on the road to Cherryville, Bella Stella from Trinity Valley Road and Terroir Cheese from the Enderby area each produce an amazing range of cheeses and cheese related products. The Monashee Community Co-op is proud to represent two of these farms: Bella Stella and Terroir.
Today Amie was picking up fresh produce at the Monashee Community Co-op while Len of Terroir was dropping off cheese. “Try this ‘Jurassic’ with eggs or poultry,” he suggested and she gleefully took some. Later, Irma of Bella Stella, on her way to the farmer’s market, showed me their latest cheese made with Italian black truffles. Mouth-watering! All sold out by mid-afternoon. Bella Stella supplies yoghurt, a variety of creamed cheeses and Quark. If you have not tried Quark you have to be quick because it is very popular!
Give your palate a treat and try some artisanal cheese soon. Remember, members and volunteers receive substantial discounts at the co-op. It is our way of “Nourishing a Local Economy”.