Thursday, 31 May 2012

Fifth Town Artisan Cheese Co. - An Extinguished Dream

    Last March my family and I climbed into our van and went to the Prince Edward County "Maple in the County".  "Maple in the County" is an event that celebrates the Maple Syrup industry in Prince Edward County.  There were several pancake breakfasts.  Several businesses produced maple flavoured products using local maple syrup.  It was a really fun and interesting day.  One of the stops we made that day was to the Fifth Town Artisan Cheese Co. in Waupoos.  We traveled down a country road with beauty as far as the eye could see.  On the right of us was Lake Ontario, looking majestic.  We pulled into this funny looking place.  It looked like nothing that I had ever seen before.

    The more I looked around the more impressed that I became with this cheese factory.  It made a great effort to be energy efficient.  The kids loved looking in the cheese caves and seeing those lovely rounds of cheese just waiting to be ready.  You could feel the love radiating from that place.  We went inside the store that was jam packed with people.  Behind the counter friendly faces offered us samples of cheese.  We tried a chevre that had been rolled in powdered local maple syrup.  Oh my goodness it was good.  It was like no cheese I had ever eaten before.  Goat milk has it's own taste, and you could taste it in the cheese.  We also bought two bottles of goats milk.  One for the kids to try and one for my Mom and Dad (growing up Mom and Dad raised goats.  We always had a supply of goats milk).  We also bought several of their different types of chevre to try at home, as well as those tasty maple sugar rolled chevre we had just sampled.  We really like the place and vowed to come back.

    When I decided to do "The Great Cheese Factory Tour" I knew that Fifth Town Artisan Cheese was on the list of cheese factories.  The night before I was set to head into the county to visit The Black River Cheese Factory and the Fifth Artisan Cheese I for some reason checked their websites.  I was taken aback when I read on the Fifth Artisan Cheese Co.'s website that they had "temporarily ceased production due to a cash flow shortage", their store would be open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m..  This really saddened me.  I decided that I would go on a Friday so that I could buy some cheese.

    I pulled up to the factory and saw no cars, how strange I thought.  As I walked up to the doors I saw a "bankruptcy" sign on the door.  I wanted to cry for them.  This was someone's dream, and now it was extinguished.    I looked into the "cave" and saw all of the unfulfilled promise, just sitting there wasting.  In behind the building was a dumpster filled to overflowing with tools of their trade.  It was all I could do to hold back the tears.  I was shocked at how overcome with grief I felt for this business.  The owner had gone to so much trouble to make a difference, and now she had nothing.  As I pulled away my grief was replaced by anger.  How could this have happened?  How could a seemingly thriving business fall?  I don't have the answers.

   When I got home I went onto the internet and did a little research about Fifth Town.  This truly was the dream of woman named Petra Kassun- Mutch.  She left behind her lucrative job as a publishing executive to find heaven.  She moved to the County with her family to make a new, healthy life.   She wanted to make a quality artisan product using fresh local goat and sheep milk.  She designed her dairy to be the most energy efficient and achieved Platinum LEED accreditation under the leadership in Energy and Environment design in March of 2009.  Her company won no fewer than 30 awards for cheese and sustainability initiatives.  I can only imagine the heartache that this poor woman must feel.  It is obvious just to look at the building to know that she threw her entire heart and soul into this.

    I come back to my thoughts about the Eldorado Cheese Factory.  It is too late to save this cheese factory.  It is yet another victim of our economy.  How do we save future cheese factories?  What can we as a public do to ensure that our cheese factories do not go the way of the Doo Doo Bird?


  1. Sad about Fifth Town - never been there but have had their cheese a few times - and sadder about local cheese factories struggling - support your local cheesemakers and farmers!! Eat way too much curd and cheese of all kinds :)

  2. Hello Middle Aged!
    Can't believe I just came across this post now! Thanks so much for all the kind words. fT was my dream...a dream that business could be a force for positive change. I poured all I had into it. I have to say, we had so many supporters, and that business was very good. We were headed in the right direction. But greed ended up being our undoing. fT was funded by 2 partners, myself and now ex- husband plus two private equity lenders and commercial banks. One partner got greedy. Had legal and financial power to take it over. Thought he knew best. Installed investment banker to run it. Didn't listen. And a year later, after losing Customers and staff, closed it up, it did not need happen. Too long to get into here but suffice it to say our business culture and the legal and fin ace structures we have in place create the wrong outcomes. Anyone sad about FT needs to work to change business culture in North America. And the systems that entrench the current one. And yes, support your local farmers and processors. Or we won't have many of them left!

    1. Petra, thank you for the background information. I think that we need to do more to support our small businesses, especially in the the food industry.