ABOUT FORREST FARM
Eight years ago, Amanda and Ewan Forrest launched their dream of making beautiful, lovingly-crafted cheese in Salmo, B.C. Like everything else on Forrest Farm, Amanda and Ewan’s cheese is hand-made and mindfully packaged with minimal plastic and gorgeous presentation in mind. They make several varieties of sheep and goat cheese, featuring a fantastic Chevre, the classic lactic goat cheese. Each cheese has a unique shape and size to bring out its best flavour characteristics and stays true to the traditional European-style artisanal cheese.
With the launch of the dairy operation to the delight of local consumers, Amanda and Ewan have come a long way from their early days on the farm. They started out with just a pair each of goats and sheep to build their flock on 8 acres of farmland. Alongside their dairy, Amanda and Ewan now raise quail, chickens, pigs, and a large market garden.
HOW TO START A MICRO-DAIRY IN B.C.
So, how did Forrest Farm become the burgeoning operation it is today? In sharing their experiences with the hurdles they overcame in starting their dairy, Amanda and Ewan hope to educate, encourage, and inspire other producers to build micro-dairies on their own farms. For Forrest Farm, becoming a licenced dairy, developing the appropriate cheesemaking infrastructure, and building a dedicated customer base were essential steps on their journey to success. Generous with their knowledge and experience, Amanda and Ewan emphasize that the time and financial expenses required to become a licensed micro-dairy in B.C. are well worth the benefit of being able to provide their community with high quality, local farm products.
First and foremost, Amanda and Ewan had to certify their burgeoning dairy operation. Amanda and Ewan’s dairy licensing process started with a call to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, where they learned that the licensing process in B.C. is regulated by three agencies: the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC), the Ministry of Agriculture (Province of BC), and Interior Health Authority (IH). The inspector they worked with from the Ministry of Agriculture was helpful, informative, and a pleasure to work with. In retrospect, Amanda suggests that the process would be much easier with the support of a dedicated professional (or mentor) who could help new micro-dairy farmers navigate the many licensing certifications more holistically.
As they moved through the certification process, Amanda and Ewan saw a lot of sense in standards required to be a licenced dairy, particularly the sanitation and animal welfare requirements. As micro-dairy producers, however, the economy of scale for small operations within the existing regulatory framework is a challenge. The start-up cost of building infrastructure that meets regulatory requirements is an important consideration for farmers thinking of adding micro-dairy to their operations. Additionally, the fees for monthly testing of cheese samples becomes significant when you are a small-scale producer.
Alongside the regulatory infrastructure for operating a successful dairy, Amanda and Ewan dedicated ample time and resources to perfecting the physical infrastructure of their dairy. Looking to combine their farming values with an efficient and by-the-book facility, Amanda and Ewan faced a number of logistical challenges while renovating the basement of their farmhouse into a cheesemaking facility. Most significantly, this construction project required a new well and water system in place to service the facility. Like with licencing, Amanda and Ewan learned that, for a micro-dairy, infrastructure is another area which requires ingenuity and adaptation– without being able to rely on “status quo” large dairy operation infrastructure tips and tricks, Amanda and Ewan had to make things up as they went along. One of their very clever adaptations included securing Ewan’s licence to transport the milk from the milking shed to the cheesemaking facility by wagon rather than by tanker truck. Within their micro-dairy, the supply chain from milking to finished product is only metres apart, which is all part of the system that reflects Amanda and Ewan’s ecological values.
These ecological values are reflected not just in the distance from milking to finished product, but also from producer to consumer. Deeply committed to building a dairy that would serve their local community, Amanda and Ewan dedicated themselves for years to developing a strong customer base for their cheeses. Amanda attended farmers’ markets and festivals to build their customer base before moving into offering a full-service CSA share program and building a farm stand for on-farm sales. They are now able to offer three different CSA options to their dedicated customers. While their brand new, immaculate cheesemaking facility is off limits to visitors, the self-serve farm stand is open year-round, 7 days a week. The farm stand is a burst of colour and flavour, with offerings as diverse as meat, eggs, cheese, vegetables, and bouquets of flowers to Amanda’s handmade goat-milk house and body products and beautifully spun and hand-dyed yarn.
Ingenuity, hard work, the love of cheese making and love for the animals has brought this multi-year dream to fruition, and the results are delicious!
CONNECT WITH FORREST FARM:
Facebook: Forrest Farm
The best way to make sure that you don’t miss out on any of Amanda and Ewan’s amazing seasonal products is to sign up for one of Forrest Farm’s CSA subscriptions. It’s not too late to sign up for one of their three delicious options, which include:
- Full CSA (veggies, eggs, meat, and cheese) – weekly
- Cheese CSA – biweekly
- Bouquet CSA – weekly
CONNECT WITH OTHER YOUNG AGRARIANS:
Stay in Touch
- Join our Young Agrarians Columbia Basin Facebook Group to stay up to date with all things farming in the region
- Sign up for our e-newsletter to get events and opportunities for your region delivered straight to your inbox
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 22, 2023
LAND LINKING WORKSHOP – NELSON
If you are interested in hosting an event at your farm and bringing together the farming community in your area, please reach out to email@example.com with your idea!
Got Land? Want Land?
Through the B.C. Land Matching Program, Young Agrarians offers support to farmers looking for land for their farm business, and landholders looking for farmers to farm their land. We’ve made more than 284 matches on over 11,300 acres to date! To learn about available land opportunities, and to learn about the B.C. Land Matching program in the Columbia Basin, please visit youngagrarians.org/land or contact the Columbia Basin Land Matcher, Nyree, at firstname.lastname@example.org.