LANCASTER - It's not easy running a successful artisan cheese factory and a cheese-making supply business in an increasingly competitive market, but Glengarry Fine Cheese has not only been managing well, but keeps on winning awards at prestigious competitions.
At the 2012 Royal Winter Fair, the company won a first in Aged Lankaaster Cheese, a first in Young Lankaaster, and a third in Celtic Blue Cheese, with a Reserve Grand Champion for Blue Azzura Cheese, which is made from a combination of buffalo and cow milk.
These awards were repeated In the 2012 British Empire Cheese Competition, except Celtic Blue Cheese won a first instead of a third. The company was also a finalist in the Canadian Grand Prix Cheese Competition.
And in Nov. 2012, the construction of a new 1800-square foot warehouse to hold the cheese-making supplies provided a solution for space management.
"It's the first time we have had our own warehouse, before we had to rent or use whatever free space we had. It was difficult to do and complicated. This is good for everyone here concerned," says owner manager Margaret Peters
Located just north of Lancaster, the dairy is across the road from the factory. The milk that goes into the cheese comes from a Holstein herd fed hay and grains from the Peters' family farm, from Brown Swiss Cows at the nearby Riemann farm, and from goats at Clarmell Farms in Manotick. Peters manages the cheese plant and the warehouse, with the help of eight to ten employees, a number which has been constant from the start.
In the early 1990s, Peters was making cheese at home and in 1995 started the Glengarry Cheesemaking Supply Company, which has been the main thrust of the business since its inception. As an experienced cheese maker who has learned traditional techniques from the Europeans, Peters likes to help others who are interested in the trade.
"We always made cheese ourselves. This was so people could make their own and order supplies," she says.
"It's a big thing. Ever since I started, it's been a popular craft. There's a lot of information out there that's not accurate."
To mention a few items, the warehouse inventory includes soft and hard cheese moulds made in France and Italy, soft cheese-making equipment from France, new and used vats, cheese presses, drain tables and cream separators.
Peters says cheese makers face competition from European products, whose prices are low because of the soft Euro and because of the quality of some of their products.
"It makes it tough because artisan cheese has to be priced competitively."
But Glengarry Fine Cheese has the distinction of being truly local in sourcing and manufacturing. Consumers can know more about each step of the process by visiting the factory and viewing cheese making for themselves.
Having a diversified business and managing it carefully is also a key to survival in a tough market.
"We don't rely on one thing. If we did, we would have a smaller company. We wouldn't have built the store and have these employees," she adds.
One way to diversify is to have a variety of products that include hard cheeses like the Glengarry Fen and Aged Lankaaster, Soft Lactic Bloomy Rind like the Figaro and Blue Cheeses such as the Barely Blue and Washed Rind Cheeses.
Made of buffalo and cow milk, the prize-winning Azzura was a blend because of the expense of the new ingredient. Other manufacturers use combinations to keep the cost of production down.
"It's nice to have a beautiful product. But you also need someone to buy it and the price needs to be competitive," she says.
In closing, Peters explains a little more about why the business is a success.
"We've always continued to make very high quality products and want to promote more of our local character. We draw a lot of people from a large area to our plant because we make good products. The business is becoming more established because of the quality of our cheese."