Natural Pastures’ Comox Camembert has earned numerous accolades from cheese lovers. Country Grocer photo

Comox Valley cheese-makers are Island Good

Grocery program showcases local flavours

Natural, locally crafted goodness from the Island – it’s a principle deliciously served up by the Comox Valley’s Natural Pastures Cheese Company.

Founded in 2000, Natural Pastures produced their first cheese in 2001 and by 2003 the first of many accolades came their way. “We won some awards in the Canadian Cheese Grand Prix in 2003 and that really got the ball rolling,” says Doug Smith, operations manager.

“Back then, local food wasn’t really on people’s radar, not just consumers, but retailers too,” Smith reflects. Today, “we sell cheese from here to Ontario, but the Island is still our main region.”

How important is that local support?

“I think it’s really big. To varying degrees, there’s a very strong loyalty to us from people on the Island,” Smith says. “People can say, that’s the cheese I buy and they’re doing really well. It affirms that we have the capacity in Vancouver Island of doing things really, really well.”

As an artisan producer using all natural ingredients – and as much from local sources as possible – they strive to keep prices as affordable as possible without foregoing that flavour and quality.

Innovation is also a focus.

In addition to a wide range of cheeses, from a smoked Boerenkaas to a Buffalo Brie crafted from Valley buffalo milk, visitors to the McPhee Avenue cheese shop in Courtenay can try two new cheeses, which if successful may make their way into Island grocery stores too..

King’s Peak, a washed rind cheese named for one of the mountains in Strathcona Park, is washed in a chardonnay from Comox’s 40 Knots Vineyards. Pacific Wildfire is a smoked cheese infused with smoke and heat from locally grown habanero peppers.

Oh, and those awards? They just keep coming, nationally and internationally, including the most recent: third in the World Cheese Championships for its deliciously creamy Camembert!

Island made: Island Good

Natural Pastures is one of numerous Vancouver Island growers and producers participating in Island Good, an initiative with four Island grocers to increase consumer awareness of Island-made and Island-grown food products.

The Vancouver Island Economic Alliance pilot project, in all Island Thrifty Foods, Country Grocer (except for Country Grocer Salt Spring, Quality Foods and 49th Parallel Grocery stores through August, aims to increase demand for products made and/or grown on the Island.

Shoppers can look for ‘Island Good’ stickers, posters and other signage highlighting these Island products in all store departments.

“Vancouver Islanders believe in local, want to shop local, source local and eat locally sourced food,” says VIEA President George Hanson. “We believe that when shoppers can identify Island Good options, they’ll make more Island Good choices, and that increased demand will lead to increased production, more jobs and more production capacity.”

Look for the Island Good tags, enjoy local food and support our local economy: It’s Island Good!

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