It’s almost too bad that Little Qualicum Cheeseworks won top prize for their Island Bries cheese when they did. The increased demand for the product as a result of last month’s top honor, say Clarke and Nancy Gourlay simply can’t be met — at least for a little while.
The Cheeseworks has shut down its production for a short time as they expand the work space and add to a customer viewing area.
Morningstar Farm, the site of LQC, is still open to tours and public visits. LQC is also celebrating its 10th anniversary. People will have to wait until early June, perhaps around June 7, said Clarke before cheese production will start up again.
But don’t worry about the cheese. He added they do have enough product on hand to meet local commercial demand for their cheese. Except the curds. Those require active cheesemaking.
The addition to their production facility is approximately 600 sq.ft. (55 m). The added room will offer workers more space to get around their milk vat, which can hold 1,700 liters per day. That’s about as much as the farm’s 65 milk cows can produce and so far, Clarke said that’s a nice pace of business.
At the forefront of local agri-tourism for the last six years, Clarke said things are going well.
“The addition of the winery (Mooberry Winery) three years ago was a draw to another part of the community,” he said.
They currently employ up to 25 people — adding a few more during the summer.
In recent years, the farm has been open to tours, expanded their parking lot, added an on-site store, a picnic area and a series of community events from jazz and cheesecake to calving and singing. Clarke said in the summer months, they probably see 300 to 400 people on the farm each day. In the shoulder seasons, it’s around 100. Most recently, the farm hosted a bus tour from a cruise ship that had docked in Nanaimo.
“That was our most significant visit from a cruise ship and the first since the new dock facility went in in Nanaimo,” he said.
The expansion of their facility — once an old school portable — was needed.
“In the last two years, this has been overdue.”
Clarke said the work will create better venting for the work space and larger, separate storage areas for aging the cheese. The growth will also help LQC meet a growing demand — an estimated 10 to 15 per cent each year, said Clarke — for their products.
Once the work is done, LQC can resume making its Island Bries and offering a better experience for their visitors.