Parksville’s Morningstar Farm marks 10th year

It has been 10 years since Clarke and Nancy Gourlay decided to move back to Canada after a decade of overseas humanitarian aid work and trade their desk jobs in for a milking stool and cheese paddle.

Nancy and Clarke Gourlay spend some time with this year’s calves at Morningstar Farm.

Nancy and Clarke Gourlay spend some time with this year’s calves at Morningstar Farm.

It has been 10 years since Clarke and Nancy Gourlay decided to move back to Canada after a decade of overseas humanitarian aid work and trade their desk jobs in for a milking stool and cheese paddle.

It was a big change, one that brought with it many surprises, but the owners of Morningstar Farm wouldn’t go back for anything.

“We are among the luckiest people on the planet,” Nancy said. “It was rough at first, but now it’s romantic again.”

Romantic perhaps, but Clarke could see a lot of potential in the farming life that perhaps others could not.

“Both of us were interested in agriculture, having lived in Switzerland and being interested in the idea of the slow food movement,” he said. “As well, we are both entrepreneurial and there’s a huge amount of entrepreneurial potential in local food and agri-tourism.”

The couple began with five dry cows and, when those calved and began producing milk, Nancy hauled the milk to a leased plant in Duncan, where, three times a week, she spent 10 hours turning that milk into cheese.

“We started the business on a farm down the road,” Nancy said. “We leased the barns and, after we learned how to make cheese at a farm in Duncan, we started to make our own in an old school portable.”

With Ray Haynes, Nancy’s father, on board as the primary salesperson, the business took off, with Quality Foods buying significant quantities of cheese. As well, the couple utilized the Qualicum Beach Farmer’s Market to connect with customers and get the word out that something deliciously cheesy was starting to happen.

The Gourlays purchased Morningstar Farm in 2002 and since that humble beginning, have gone from strength to strength, expanding to include the Little Qualicum Cheeseworks and later, the Mooberry Winery.

“The parking lot, which was prepared last summer to handle the increased traffic is now at capacity already and will need to be expanded again this summer,” Nancy said. “The cheese processing facility is also being expanded to facilitate the increased volume of milk we’re putting through it every day. Our first herd of five cows is now close to 60.”

While the couple have no plans to slow down on their cheese business, they have made a point of diversifying, adding the sale of their pork, beef and lamb as sidelines.

And the future? Clarke rubs his hands and pauses.

“There are lots of different options right now,” he said. “We’ve talked about a bistro, a bed and breakfast, a market garden and meat processing.”

“We are going to host a long-distance equestrian event this summer, a competitive trail ride on July 31,” Nancy added. “Then there’s the annual jazz festival and Family Farm Fun Day.”

Join with the Gourlays on the Easter weekend as they celebrate 10 years of agricultural and retail success, with free guided tours all weekend and a cake cutting at 1 p.m. on Saturday, April 23.

For more information call 250-954-3931.