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

 

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

James Nathan Roberts, 38, was found dead May 15 by a Terrace RCMP officer patrolling the woods between the curling rink and the train tracks. Police are asking the public to come forward with any information. (Submitted photo)
Terrace police renews assistance plea a year into homicide investigation

Investigation began after James Roberts’ body was found in May 2020

This concept artwork from July 2020 shows the inland port planned for the former Skeena Cellulose mill site in Terrace. (Image courtesy Hatha Callis, Progressive Ventures Group)
VIDEO: Highlights of Terrace’s inland port public hearing

Council gave third reading to two zoning amendments on June 14

San Group owners Suki, left, and Kamal Sanghera with technical manager Richard Zeller at their facility in Port Alberni in Feb. 2021. The forestry company is looking at expanding its business into northwest B.C. by setting up a manufacturing unit in Terrace. (SUSAN QUINN/ Black Press file photo)
Forestry company San Group eyes Terrace for northwest B.C expansion

The company looks at Skeena Industrial Park to set up a sawmill manufacturing unit

The Independent Investigations Office of BC has concluded police acted appropriately in the lead-up to a fatal ATV crash north of Terrace on May 23, 2021. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Police watchdog finds no police wrongdoing in fatal ATV crash

The May 23 crash resulted in the death of a Terrace woman

Maxwell Johnson is seen in Bella Bella, B.C., in an undated photo. The Indigenous man from British Columbia has filed complaints with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission after he and his granddaughter were handcuffed when they tried to open a bank account. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Heiltsuk Nation, Damien Gillis, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
VIDEO: Chiefs join human rights case of Indigenous man handcuffed by police in B.C. bank

Maxwell Johnson said he wants change, not just words, from Vancouver police

Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Chief Rosanne Casimir stands outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School after speaking to reporters, in Kamloops, B.C., on Friday, June 4, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Kamloops chief says more unmarked graves will be found across Canada

Chief Rosanne Casimir told a virtual news conference the nation expects to release a report at the end of June

A woman wears a vaccinated sticker after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. ranks among highest in world in COVID-19 first-dose shots: health officials

More than 76% of eligible people have received their 1st shot

A screenshot of the First Peoples Cultural Councils First Peoples’ Map. (First Peoples Cultural Council)
Online resource blends B.C.-Alberta’s Indigenous languages, art and culture

Advisor says initiative supports the urgent need to preserve Indigenous languages

An artists conception of the new terminal building at the Pitt Meadows Regional Airport.
Air travel taking off in B.C., but lack of traffic controllers a sky-high concern

There will be demand for more air traffic controllers: Miller

Canadian Armed Forces experts are on their way to North Vancouver after a local homeowner expressed worry about a military artifact he recently purchased. (Twitter DNV Fire and Rescue)
Military called in to deal with antique ‘shell’ at North Vancouver home

‘The person somehow purchased a bombshell innocently believing it was an out-of-commission military artifact’

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz have set their wedding date for February, hoping that more COVID-19 restrictions will have lifted. (The Macleans)
B.C. couples ‘gambling’ on whether COVID rules will let them dance at their wedding

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz pushed back their wedding in hopes of being able to celebrate it without the constraints of COVID-19

A plane is silhouetted as it takes off from Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., May 13, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Report calls for airlines to refund passengers for flights halted due to COVID-19

Conclusion: federal help should be on the condition airlines immediately refund Canadian travellers

Most Read