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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

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

The wind has been gusting Friday, March 5 in Williams Lake with the risk of a thunderstorm in the forecast for later in the afternoon. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
More than 500 customers in Cariboo without power, risk of thunderstorm Friday afternoon

The BC Hydro map is adding more power outages as the afternoon unfolds

The two suspects arrested south of 150 Mile House Tuesday, March 2, following a high-speed chase with the RCMP have been charged. (Will Roberts photo)
High-speed chase suspects charged, remain in custody after arrest south of Williams Lake

John Craig and Maggie M. Higgott appeared in Williams Lake Provincial Court March 4

Interior Health reported 33 new COVID-19 cases on March 5. (Black Press Files)
Interior Health reports 33 new COVID-19 cases on March 5

Over 300,000 vaccine doses have been administered provincewide.

Many members of the Williams Lake Cross Country Ski Club (pictured) have teamed up with the Cariboo Chilcotin Conservation Society to host a free ski in celebration of World Water Day. (Patrick Davies photo - Black Press Media)
Conservation society, cross country ski club, celebrate World Water Day with free ski March 6

The free ski will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 6 at Bull Mountain

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C. on the COVID-19 situation. (B.C. government)
Dr. Bonnie Henry predicts a ‘post-pandemic world’ for B.C. this summer

‘Extending this second dose provides very high real-world protection to more people, sooner’

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Malawian police guard AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines after the shipment arrived in Lilongwe, Malawi, Friday March 5, 2021. Canada is expecting its first shipments of AstraZeneca vaccine next week. (Associated Press/Thoko Chikondi)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 cases climb to 634 Friday, four more deaths

Currently 255 people in hospital, 66 in intensive care

A crashed helicopter is seen near Mt. Gardner on Bowen Island on Friday March 5, 2021. Two people were taken to hospital in serious but stable condition after the crash. (Irene Paulus/contributed)
2 people in serious condition after helicopter goes down on Bowen Island

Unclear how many passengers aboard and unclear where the helicopter was going

Surrey Pretrial in Newton. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. transgender inmate to get human rights hearing after being held in mostly male jail

B.C. Human Rights Tribunal member Amber Prince on March 3 dismissed the pretrial’s application to have Makayla Sandve’s complaint dismissed

Supporters rally outside court as Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church is in court to appeal bail conditions, after he was arrested for holding day services in violation of COVID-19 rules, in Edmonton, Alta., on Thursday March 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
‘Law remains valid:’ Pastor accused of violating health orders to remain in jail

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is representing the pastor

The Netflix logo on an iPhone. B.C. delayed imposing sales tax on digital services and sweetened carbonated beverages as part of its response to COVID-19. Those taxes take effect April 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Matt Rourke
B.C. applies 7% sales tax on streaming, vaping, sweet drinks April 1

Measures from 2020 budget were delayed due to COVID-19

Chief Don Tom of the Tsartlip First Nation was outraged after Green MLA Adam Olsen revealed on social media that the community had been experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak – a fact the First Nation had chosen to keep private to avoid racist backlash as experienced by the Cowichan Tribes when an outbreak was declared there in January. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. First Nation ‘outraged’ after Green MLA reveals COVID-19 outbreak

Tsartlip First Nation chief shares concerns about racist backlash, MLA apologizes

A lawyer wears a face mask and gloves to curb the spread of COVID-19 while waiting to enter B.C. Supreme Court, in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, Aug. 28, 2020. British Columbia’s highest court has sided with the land owner in a dispute over public access to public land. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. high court finds in favour of large landowner in fight over access to pair of lakes

The Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club launched legal action after the cattle company blocked road and trail access

Most Read