ECONOMUSEUM® & Reserved designations : La Fromagerie du Pied-De-Vent.
21 June 2023
Interview with co-owners: Renée Landry and Dominique Arseneau
Why did you decide to embark on the Économusée adventure? (Since 2010)
“When we first started the cheese factory, in 1998, the production room took up a lot of space… there was only a quarter of the storefront available for the boutique! At the time, we thought we’d sell 80-90% of our cheeses for export, and that we’d be able to sell the small remaining quantity in the boutique. But the local taste for fine cheeses grew, as did the desire to meet producers. We soon found ourselves with busloads of visitors coming our way, and a boutique far too small to accommodate everyone. Our meeting with the network of economuseums came at just the right time, and it was with them that we proceeded to expand the boutique. The network lent us all its expertise, and the result is a brand-new space that not only gives us a warm welcome to all those who come to visit us, but also creates a wow effect among customers who come to discover the farm and cheese dairy. This means that we sell 50% of our production here, both to locals and to tourists who come during the summer months.”
What has that changed for you?
“The expertise of the economuseum network is great! Our new boutique isn’t just more attractive; it also allows us to really showcase the work we do. If you take the tour from start to finish, you’ll come away with a good understanding of what’s behind the cheeses you taste. Visitors learn all about the work involved in dairy and cheese production, but our economuseum also gives pride of place to the Canadian cow, which people still don’t know much about. We also have a large outdoor terrace that we covered in 2017. With sometimes more than 160 busloads of visitors per summer season, we felt the need to make changes that would allow us to properly welcome people who travel in groups to come and see us.”
“On the farm, too, it helped a lot! We always gave tours because there was demand… both from producers on vacation and from people who’d never seen a cow in their lives! People would knock on our door and we’d show them around. The arrival of the economuseum enabled us to structure the visit, to take people step by step in a reasonable and pleasant amount of time, to get them to walk around our space for a truly complete visit. And we end it all with a tasting at the cheese dairy! After a two-year break due to the pandemic, we can’t wait to resume these tours. We’ve missed it, and people have missed it too!”
You first became an Economuseum, and then embarked on a specificity designation in 2016. What led you to get your products certified?
“We were approached by fellow dairy farmers who had also started making cheese from Canadian cows, and they told us about this project. We quickly found it positive. For me, there are two major advantages to having our cheeses recognized by the appellation de spécificité. Firstly, it adds value to our work, and our cheeses stand out much better on the market with this mark of recognition. Secondly, it also supports, on the basis of our specifications, the development and preservation of the Canadian cow breed. Combining the economuseum and the appellation allows us to promote both the product and all the work behind it.”
What does it change in your daily life to have to comply with a set of specifications?
“Basically, the specifications are in place to provide a framework for good cheese-making practices. For example, it prevents the addition of modified substances that some may be tempted to add to increase yield or fat content, at the risk of denaturing the product. It also sets clear guidelines on how to look after the cows, for example by ensuring that they have the best possible diet for their well-being. For us, at least, the specifications are not a huge challenge. Rather, it’s a means of securing the practices we put forward and believe in, of sharing and perpetuating the values that guide our work as we like to do it, for an exceptional product.”
What is the response from your customers when you tell them about your commitment to reserved appellations?
“It certainly speaks to people! Locals are proud to see their region’s products recognized, and for tourists, it helps them understand just how unique the products they’re discovering are. Our local appellations are still much less well known and mastered by the public than they are in Europe, for example. We talk about our cheeses, our cows, but we’re also happy to be able to tell people about other appellations and draw their attention to Maïs de Neuville or Vins de glace. We have a great deal of educational work to do, and by being close to people, we’re well placed to do it.”
Why is it important for you to protect and make your know-how last by being Artisans at work and having a reserved appellation?
“There’s no doubt that the current economic context is difficult for everyone, but even more so for producers like us. The average consumer has less and less purchasing power. At the same time, our work is demanding, and the Canadian breed of cow isn’t the one that produces the most milk. Despite that, we can still feel a certain interest from the next generation for what we do, for our way of working and for the breed we’ve chosen!
“Young people ask a lot of questions and wonder how they can increase yields, improve practices… but the project we’re involved in is arousing a lot of interest among younger people. We’ve been making a unique cheese from Canadian cow’s milk for 25 years. We do it with a pride that’s renewed year after year, and we’re happy to see the next generation interested in finding solutions to the challenges facing our industry, and in ensuring that our know-how endures and continues.”