Christian and Maggie are ex-military. Disciplined, full of initiative and possessing a solid work ethic. This is a great combination to succeed in farming. Both entrepreneurs hold degrees and formal training in agriculture. Christian also has training in environmental protection and Maggie has trained as a cheese-maker.
We started milking sheep in 1999 and sold ewe’s milk to several cheese factories in Quebec. Unfortunately the Listeriosis Crisis in 2008 affected all artisan cheese factories and demand for milk literally evaporated.
At this point, a critical decision had to be made. End milking or process our milk into cheese and continue. Maggie and Christian decided to continue and our cheese factory les folies bergères was born.
Loosely translated les folies bergères is crazy shepherds. Well the name suites….cause you have to be a little crazy to start a cheese factory after the listeriosis crisis, and during a recession.
Christian takes care of the farm: harvests the hay and milks the sheep and raises the lambs; Maggie makes the cheese and takes care of the cheese factory. Both entrepreneurs were clear that a federal factory was critical in order to market their products in Ottawa. Their interest is to make locally and sell locally.
Nestled in the hills of the Petite nation just west of Gatineau; we purchased our 100 acre farm in 1996. Actually we ran out of gas in front of our farm and saw the for sale sign. Like many city folk we started with chickens, rabbits and a large garden. In 1998 Maggie followed a 10 month course on sheep husbandry and we decided to direct our energies toward dairy sheep.
In 2005 we purchased another 216 acre farm just 4km away to have enough hay fields and another barn to raise our lambs and replacement ewelings. In 2008 we purchased another 20 acres to become fully self-sufficient in hay.
Christian takes care of all the building and maintenance. A gifted problem solver, he has on many an occasion found an economical solution to chronic problems.
Maggie and Christian purchased 64 animals in 1999 they were a mix of Arcott Rideau and East-Friesan. East-Friesen is a dairy breed from the same area of Germany as the Holstein Cow. Ten years later, production levels per sheep are optimized through breeding and selection. The “Girls” also benefit from 40 acres of pasture in the spring to fall months. Exercise, sunshine and grass make for happy sheep that produce creamy rich milk for cheese. The sheep lamb once a year and the lambs are kept under the mothers for 30 days in order to optimize vigour and growth. Then the first selection is made where potential replacement stock are raised apart from the meat stock. The sheep are shorn 1 to 2 times a year and the wool is exchanged with the local spinners who help us during the shearing.
Maggie is passionate about making cheese. Our cheese factory is the only one in the Outaouais that processes the milk from sheep, goats and cows. All of the milk is local from the petite nation. Just one type of cheese would be boring to make all of time, and would not necessarily interest as many cheese lovers. Fresh cheeses, bloomy rinds, hard cheeses, feta and cheddar.
All of our products are pasteurized. Maggie will not use any preservatives aside from salt, no modified milk ingredients, or colouring. When the cows give us orange milk then I will make orange cheddar….clients hear that one a lot!
Cheese-making is a mixture of advanced science and art…you have to feel the cheese and at the same time you have to respect the timing, temperature and ph levels. You have to constantly watch how the cheese progresses, how it ages and finally how it looks and tastes before presenting it to the public.
Each of our product names and drawings has a story. We chose a blue back ground for our labels so that customers could easily identify our products in a dairy case. Our fresh sheep’s milk cheeses have gold packaging to set them apart from other cheeses. Our cheeses have cheeky names that reflect our sense of fun about not taking ourselves too seriously. The drawings also reflect this tongue in cheek attitude.
To see the descriptions our products click here»»»
Fromagerie LES FOLIES BERGÈRES... pictures