Quesnel cheese-maker brings unique products to the North Cariboo

Quesnel cheese-maker brings unique products to the North Cariboo

La Belle Vallée Fromagerie is the only provincially licensed cheese-making facility in Northern B.C.

Laurie Jones

Observer Contributor

When Florian Bergoin moved to Quesnel in 2014, he was impressed by the number of dairy farms in the area, and surprised to learn that there were no local cheese producers.

He had grown up in an alpine village in the Savoie region in southeastern France, an area that’s similar in climate and terrain to the North Cariboo and well known for its dairy cows and variety of cheeses. “Cheese-making is a way of life there,” said Bergoin, owner of La Belle Vallée Fromagerie and winner of Quesnel & District Chamber of Commerce’s New Business of the Year award for 2018. “I grew up watching my grandfather making cheese every day, and it intrigued me. I guess that planted the idea of starting my own cheese business one day.”

During university, he spent the summers as a shepherd on a local farm, taking the dairy herd to graze in the mountains and making cheese from the fresh milk. In 2013, after immigrating to Quebec with his partner, Adeline Dupuis, to finish university – Bergoin has a Master’s degree in Agroforestry from the University of Laval – he further honed his cheese-making skills at La Fromagerie de Ruban Bleu, an artisan cheese maker just outside of Montreal.

Bergoin originally moved to Quesnel for a job in the forest industry, but he never lost his passion for dairy farming and cheese making. The growth of the local food industry, combined with ready access to a supply of fresh, high-quality milk, inspired him to trade his forestry job for cheese making. “I could see there was going to be a big push for more local dairy farming and a demand for local cheese,” he said.

Knowing how to make cheese is one thing; starting a business is something else entirely, and it can be intimidating, particularly in the highly regulated dairy industry. As the only provincially licensed cheese-making facility in Northern British Columbia, La Belle Vallée Fromagerie is one of just a handful of artisan cheese producers outside the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island.

“The regulations were challenging, and more complex than I expected,” said Bergoin.

One of the keys to Bergoin’s success was a well-developed business plan, which was critical in helping him obtain a licence from the Milk Marketing Board. He credits Community Futures North Cariboo for helping him through the business planning process and focusing his ideas.

“I couldn’t have done it on my own,” he said. “Even the Milk Marketing Board was impressed. The person I dealt with said they don’t usually see a business plan that thorough.”

Business planning is a key component of the self-employment program offered through Community Futures North Cariboo. The program offers support and training to help aspiring entrepreneurs start and run successful small and home-based businesses.

“We’re really proud that one of our graduates has been recognized as an award-winning business,” said Greg Lawrence, general manager of Community Futures North Cariboo. “It’s very rewarding to know that the work we’re doing is helping to start and grow successful businesses in our region. It’s even more satisfying, given that the food sector is one of the areas we’ve targeted as part of our commitment to developing a more diversified and sustainable economy.”

Opened in early 2018, La Belle Vallée Fromagerie specializes in artisan cheeses made in the French Alpine tradition. The 1,000 square foot facility includes a milk receiving room and separate lab for analyzing the milk, a cheese-processing room and a temperature and humidity controlled aging room. Bergoin sources all his milk from Fox Dairy, a neighbouring farm that produces milk well-suited to Alpine cheeses.

The artisan cheese-maker produces four different kinds of cheese – a Mont Blanc Gruyère; a semi-soft Raclette; a Clerment; and a Farmer’s spreadable cheese – as well as fresh cheese curds. More recently, he has expanded his product line to include a Feta cheese, popular for its longer shelf life and tangy flavour. So far, the reviews have been unanimously positive.

“The best part for me is meeting people who have tried my cheese and hearing how much they enjoy it,” said Bergoin.

As for the two years it took to navigate the regulatory process and get his business up and running, he said that he was extremely grateful for the help he received from Community Futures, and urges anyone thinking about starting a business to contact them.

“Having knowledgeable, experienced people to tap into was tremendous,” he said. “Every time I got discouraged, they were always there with new ideas and help to get me back on track. In the end, you have to persevere. And it pays off.”

La Belle Vallée Fromagerie cheeses are currently available at Long Table Grocery’s Wednesday market and the Quesnel Farmer’s Market – open seasonally – or by contacting the factory directly.

Bergoin has also just opened a retail store on site, where customers can browse the full range of La Belle Vallée’s cheeses as well as a variety of other locally produced food products. La Belle Vallée Fromagerie is located at 2941 Shanley Road, Quesnel, B.C., near the Fox Dairy Farm. The retail site is open Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call ahead to confirm at 250-316-9595.

READ MORE: Barkerville Brewing’s stout wins silver at B.C. Beer Awards


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

La Belle Vallée Fromagerie’s cheese is available locally in Quesnel. Contributed photo

La Belle Vallée Fromagerie’s cheese is available locally in Quesnel. Contributed photo

Just Posted

District of houston
Council dips into surplus for highway project

Costs have risen to place utility lines underground

“Skeena,” by John Hudson and Paul Hanslow is one of five fonts in the running to become the default for Microsoft systems and Office programs. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Font named after Skeena River could become the next Microsoft default

One of the five new fonts will replace Calibri, which has been Microsoft’s default since 2007

Accessibility improvements and more classrooms at the Houston Christian School should be completed by the new school year. (Houston Today photo)
Accessibility improvements coming to Houston Christian School

Construction package includes two classrooms

The soft opening of the nature centre at the Buck Creek CANFOR hatchery took place mid-April. (Angelique Houlihan photo/Houston Today)
Houston hatchery and nature centre’s upcoming events

The conservation group to host summer students this year

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

The body of Brenda Ware, 35, was found along Highway 93 in Kootenay National Park on Thursday, May 6, 2021. (RCMP handout)
RCMP ask for tips after woman’s body found in Kootenay National Park

Brenda Ware was found along Highway 93 in the park, 54 kilometres north of the town of Radium

People pass the red hearts on the COVID-19 Memorial Wall mourning those who have died, opposite the Houses of Parliament on the Embankment in London, Wednesday, April 7, 2021. On May 3, the British government announced that only one person had died of COVID-19 in the previous 24 hours. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kirsty Wigglesworth
For a view of a COVID-19 future, Canadians should look across the pond

Britain, like Canada, is one of the only countries in the world to delay second doses for several months

Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid (97) celebrates his 100th point this season with Leon Draisaitl (29) against the Vancouver Canucks during second period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, May 8, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Edmonton superstar McDavid hits 100-point mark as Oilers edge Canucks 4-3

NHL scoring leader needs just 53 games to reach century mark

Nuns of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, carry some of her relics during a vigil of prayer in preparation for the canonization of Mother Teresa in the St. John in Latheran Basilica at the Vatican, Friday, Sept. 2, 2016. In which city did she do much of her charitable work? (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
QUIZ: How much do you know about these motherhood issues?

In honour of Mother’s Day, take this 10-question quiz

A map showing where the most number of cases were recorded from April 23 to 29. This map, revealing a breakdown of infections by neighborhood, was pulled from a data package leaked to the Vancouver Sun last week (and independently verified).
36 Abbotsford schools flagged for COVID-19 exposures in the last 2 weeks, shattering record

Clearbrook Elementary recorded an ‘exposure’ on all 11 school days

Canada’s chief public health officer is reminding Canadians even those who are fully vaccinated are not immune from transmitting the COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns full vaccination does not equal full protection from COVID-19

Post-inoculation, Theresa Tam says the risk of asymptomatic infection and transmission is far lower but not obsolete

Most Read