|The Eldorado Cheese Factory, with a huge FOR SALE sign.|
I live in an area abundant in cheese factories. I childishly assumed that this was the case for everyone in Ontario. That is until I went to www.ontariocheese.org/cheesemakers_map.php. There are 19 cheese factories in Ontario, several of which are sitting on the cusp of not making it (one of which is now in bankruptcy). 19 cheese factories sounds like a lot until you think that the population of Ontario is 13, 372, 996.
Our Cheese Factories are an endangered species on the brink of extinction.
The first thing that I noticed when we visited the Eldorado Cheese Factory (just outside of Madoc, Ontario on highway 62) was the giant "For Sale" sign outside. When I walked into the store it was like visiting a relatives house (a relative you like). The lady behind the counter was cheerful and nice she made you feel extremely welcome. The store was decorated in primitive country decorations. There were framed black and white pictures hanging on the walls showing the factory in days gone by. There were also awards hanging. Behind the counter were school pictures of little children, and on the wall was beautiful artwork drawn I suspect by these same children in the pictures.
To keep afloat in these difficult times the cheese factory had to become more of a generals store. It is on a heavily trafficked road for cottagers. When I told the really nice lady behind the counter that I was visiting local cheese factories and blogging about them, she got a sad look on her face. She told me that the Eldorado Cheese Factory had not produced their own cheese in a year. The cheese they sold was from the Empire Cheese Factory. All of their workers had to find new places of employment. Their cheese master cheese maker was working for Empire Cheese Factory now. She didn't even know how long the store itself would remain open.
The more I investigate the cheese factories, the more I see their pride in quality. Most of the cheese factories boast being artesian style cheese. They use only 100 percent Ontario dairy milk, which means it is free of hormones. The use natural dyes. They use no preservatives. In other works they make cheese the way it was originally made hundreds of years ago. In other words, they make a wholesome product that I would like to feed to my growing children!
So what do "WE" do? I will not pretend to be an expert on economy, but I do know that there is such a thing as "supply and demand". If we buy local cheese, they will make it. If they make it, the cheese factory will stay in business, or will not be forced to sell to big business. All of the major supermarket chains now sell locally produced cheeses. The last time I was in Sobey's in Acton, Ontario I saw both Maple Dale and Ivanhoe cheeses for sale... buy them! Am I asking you to never buy Kraft Cheese again? No. I am on a tight budget, and Kraft Cheese goes on sale for under $5.00. Here is what I am suggesting, something that I do myself. I use Kraft Cheese when I am making a cheese sauce, or anything that requires an abundance of cheese (cheese trays). When I want cheese and crackers as a snack I love Maple Dale's Dill cheese. I never buy powdered parmesan cheese, I buy Ivanhoe Cheese's brick of Parmesan Cheese, and their oh so delicious Asiago Cheese. As a matter of fact it is more economical for me to purchase the Ivanhoe cheeses than it is to buy their counterparts (Saputo) in the big box stores. My husband and I enjoy eating a baguette with Empire Cheese's dill cream cheese and a glass of wine. The local cheese actually tastes better, and it makes me feel better to know that buy purchasing local I am keeping my neighbours in jobs. Think about how many people you are employing when you purchase local cheeses. You are paying the cashiers that sold you the cheese. You are paying the workers who made the cheese. You are paying the managers who run the factory. You are paying the dairy farmers who provide the milk. You are paying the sellers of livestock who sell the farmers their cattle. If that does not convince you I don't know what will!
We need to band together. We need to save our local cheese factories. Have a look at that map, it will break your heart! Do yourself and your kids a favour this summer. Hop in your car / mini van and go for a drive. Visit a cheese factory that is within driving distance. When your kids grow up, they'll thank you because at the rate we are going that will be their only opportunity to ever see a cheese factory.
Now how do we save Eldorado Cheese Factory? I don't know. As I write this they have sold off the majority of their cheese making equipment. Their master cheese maker has found employment elsewhere. How do we convince someone to buy this factory and return it to it's glory? I'm open to suggestions. I think the first thing we can do is to support the store that is there. Perhaps if you find yourself near on Highway 62, or you are going to your cottage near Bancroft, Ontario, stop buy and buy some cheese. You will be supporting the Empire Cheese factory. The Empire cheese factory is a lovely little co-op owned by local farmers. Perhaps if the owner sees how much cheese he sells, it will set the wheels to turning and he will reconsider the loss of a cheese factory.
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