Local BC Flavour: Visit a Member of an Elite French Cheesemaking Guild in Agassiz
(HealthCastle.com) You’ve probably never heard of the Guilde des Fromagers Confrerie de Saint-Uguzon. After all, it’s an elite French cheese-making guild based on the medieval model of maintaining the traditions and standards of a craft. But one of only 12 members of this elite guild in North America lives and works just a short drive away from Vancouver, practicing her craft at The Farm House Natural Cheeses in Agassiz.
Debra Amrein-Boyes learned the art of cheesemaking during 10 years living in Europe, and was struck by the “wasteland” she found when she started looking for really good cheese when she returned to Canada. So, with her husband and kids, she established a herd of Brown Swiss, Guernsey, and Holstein cows out in Agassiz, producing her first cheese in 2004.
Unlike the cheese you’ll find in grocery stores, which is made in huge batches and vacuum-sealed to ripen, Farm House cheeses are made in small batches right on the farm, and aged traditionally using cloth and rind. You can watch the cheesemaking process in action from the farm’s cheese shop through a window into the cheesemaking area. The Farm House produces more than 20 kinds of cheese, ranging from the everyone-will-recognize-it cheddar to less-common offerings like quark and aged goat gouda.
The Farm House Natural Cheese offers farm tours and cheese tastings, and has a shop where you can buy all of their cheeses, plus Debra’s book, 200 Easy Homemade Cheese Recipes.
Here’s everything you need to know to make the most of a visit to this local cheese-lover’s paradise.
Must See, Do, and Taste Items at The Farm House Natural Cheeses
Must See: The Farm House Cheese Shop is a lovely spot packed with, of course, Farm House cheeses, as well as a selection of gifts, household items, and gourmet foods curated by Debra’s sister, Wendy. The old-fashioned candy display does not win points for nutritional value, but it is lovely to behold.
Must Do: The Farm House offers both cheese tastings and farm tours by appointment. For a minimum of seven people, you can pre-book a cheese tasting, which, for $7.50 per person, includes cheese samples, bread or crackers, and a beverage, plus an in-depth chat with Debra herself about how the cheeses are made. For $10 per person (again with a minimum of seven), you can do the cheese tasting plus a full farm tour, so you can see the cows and goats that produce the milk for the cheese. Debra also offers an annual cheese-making workshop, where for $250 you can make three different cheeses, have lunch (with wine) and go home with a recipe/workbook.
Must Taste: With more than 20 varieties, tasting them all could take some time. If you’re looking for something really special, try the camembert or the fresh chevre. Both far outshine anything you’d find in a grocery store. Once you taste them, you’ll want to go back for more.
You can find directions to the farm, pre-book a tour, and learn more about the cheeses on offer on their website.