Artisan cheese-makers have seen their opportunity in Prince Edward County. Find your opportunity in our creative rural economy and make it work. Make artisan cheese using milk from local cows, goats and sheep. Be the first to start an artisan butter shoppe here in the County. Distribute your products to the world from your island creamery. Use your enterprising spirit to join a creative, like-minded community of people with whom to work…and play.
Meet the opera and the indie cheese makers
For more than a century Black River Cheese Company has been one great constant in the County. Started in 1901 by South Marysburgh farmers, it's the sole survivor of almost 30 cheese factories in the County.
The company got off the ground with 90 shares sold at $20 each to local farmers. The original building was destroyed by fire just after its 100th birthday, but as the Black River Cheese website says, "An outpouring of support from customers and cheese connoisseurs, encouraged us to rebuild. Our ancestors who started with only a vision did not quit when things got rough and we have followed in their tradition."
Still run today by its farming shareholders, the company holds on tight to its ideals and to making quality cheese from 100 per cent County produced milk. The factory has always been run by its farmer-shareholders with a board of directors of five. Martin Miller is chair of the board of directors.
"We only use milk from County farms," he says. "Always have. That's what makes us what we are, Black River Cheese, pure County cheese." Of course, the factory has to buy its milk from the Dairy Farmers of Ontario. "Milk from our farm goes direct to the factory to make cheese," he says. "But the DFO has to take it there. As soon as it leaves here it belongs to the DFO." Black River Cheese buys from them and specifies only County produce.
Black River Cheese Company has survived and continues to prosper by building on its strengths quality, heritage, consumer loyalty, smart management, and local ownership. Community spirit plays a big part in the history and future of the factory. Black River Cheese owners and staff are paying that spirit forward working with the new Fifth Town Artisan Cheese Company.
"We're giving them a hand until their factory is up and running," says Martin. Fifth Town cheesemakers will use Black River's facility for their first production this spring. "We're here for them," says Martin. "We're just waiting for them to bring us the milk."
Petra Cooper, owner of Fifth Town Artisan Cheese is grateful. "I think it's fantastic," she says. "It's like the old and the new working together. It's like 'indie meets opera', sort of the new kids and the traditional experts."
Fifth Town cheese is sheep and goat milk, Black River's is cows' milk, but they go together like, well, like dairy farmers and cheesemakers have for generations. In fact one of Fifth Town's cheesemakers is Todd Burley, son of Ralph Buriey, a director of Black River Cheese Company.