Behind the Lines - March 2008

The best business opportunities make use of resources that are already at your disposal. In this issue, staffer Mary Baxter writes about the opportunity presented to some former pig farmers in Middlesex County to use their manure facilities for storing liquid biosolids before they are spread on farm fields. However, Nick and Colleen Wiendels encountered stiff opposition to their proposal from within their community and other hurdles to leap. Their story starts on page 16.

Many in mainstream agriculture know little about the relatively new phenomenon of milking sheep to make exotic cheeses. Nor do they understand the potential of the market. Petra Cooper, a former book publisher and owner of an operation recently started in Prince Edward County, also heads up the Ontario Cheese Society. Cooper says some of these cheeses are the type that you eat after opening a $100 bottle of wine.
You’ll find Don Stoneman’s story on sheep milk production on page 36.

He explored where this fledgling industry is going and talked to farms and processors, too, who are aiming to replace some of the hundreds of millions of dollars in imported sheep cheese that discerning consumers are now buying.

For now, at least, sheep milk production and products fall between the cracks in provincial regulations. Is this a cheap way to get into dairying?

Perhaps, but Stew Cardiff, the largest sheep milk cheese processor in Ontario, has words of warning. It’s hard work to pry retailers and distributors from suppliers they are using to achieve a comfortable profit. Produce too much cheese and overwhelm the market, then everyone loses.

“Sadly,” says Cardiff, “this industry is littered with the corpses of farms and cheese plants with incorrect assumptions and over-idealistic business plans or simply ones that were overwhelmed by the daily challenges.”

Last month, Better Farming launched an improved website where we will be publishing important and time-sensitive news of interest to the farm community. You can access this website at Readers can go there to find some features, such as our annual soybean chart, which were formerly published in the magazine. At Better Farming, we feel that with high-speed access becoming more common in the province, the Internet has come of age in the farm community. It’s just another indication of how agriculture moves forward in Ontario. BF

Robert Irwin & Don Stoneman

Better Farming March 2008