One of the best parts of going on vacation is all of the blog fodder it provides. This was certainly the case with the trip we took to Parksville a couple of weeks ago. Fun! Togetherness! New places to talk about! It’s really win-win, I think.
One of the places that we checked out in Parksville is Little Qualicum Cheeseworks. We visited the farm three years ago when we were in town, and I loved it. I am a fan of cheese, what can I say? So when we were back in the neighbourhood, I knew I had to visit again.
Jacob meets some goats on the farm
Morningstar Farm is the home of Little Qualicum Cheeseworks and MooBerry Winery. Since 1999 it has belonged to the Gourlays, who started milking cows and making cheese there in 2001. All of the milk for their cheeses comes from their own herd of cows, and all of the cheese is made on-site at the farm. They also grow berries for their fruit wines, and make all of the wine on site as well. The fruit and berries for the wine that aren’t grown on the farm are sourced locally.
The cows, hard at work
The cheese, wine and pork that they produce and sell at the farm is not organic. However, they are definitely dedicated to sustainable practices and quality local food. Places like Little Qualicum Cheeseworks are the reason that I often opt for local over organic – by talking to people you can get a much better picture of the practices they follow than by reading labels. The Gourlays are dedicated to the local environment and to farming lightly. Although they do have some certifications that I appreciate, like the SPCA Certification that they treat their animals with great care and Environmental Partner Certification from The Land Conservancy.
The milking parlour
We toured the farm and peeked through the window into the room where the cheese is made. Jacob got up close and personal with a goat. Hannah got up close and personal with a bunny. We saw some of the cutest calves ever. We tasted cheese and I tasted wine. And I got to chat with some of the folks about their farm.
The outside of the cheeseworks
The cows at Little Qualicum are pasture-fed as long as the weather co-operates every year, and then they eat silage. Their milk is left raw for ripened cheeses and pasteurized for soft cheeses. Apparently, raw milk results in a more flavourful cheese. The pathogens that can live in milk have a lifespan of 60 days. So cheese that is aged for longer (like ripened cheese) will not contain live pathogens, but soft cheeses may and so they pasteurize that milk first. This is why pregnant women are cautioned against eating unpasteurized soft cheese.
Living in the suburbs of a large city as we do, I don’t get to see the operations of a dairy farm first-hand. Or any farm, for that matter. Visiting Little Qualicum was a great chance for me, and for my children, to a get an up-close look at local agriculture. While I have bought Little Qualicum cheese at my local farmer’s market, the experience can’t compare. And the fruit wines, that you can’t get at the farmer’s market, were fabulous, too.
You can also check out the video my lovely husband Jon made of our visit on YouTube:
PS – As you may know, I have started including a link-up with my monthly reviews. The reviews are an informal listing of a few things I learned in the past month. My June review will go live at 6am Pacific on Friday, July 2. If you want to play along, write a post on or before July 2, come here, and link up. I have a feeling this is going to be fun!